The role of clouds in the surface energy balance over the Amazon forest

Title The role of clouds in the surface energy balance over the Amazon forest
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 1998
Authors Eltahir, E. A. B. & Humphries, E. J.
Volume 18
Date Published 1998
Keywords Amazon, cloud feedbacks, deforestation, surface energy balance

Deforestation in the Amazon region will initially impact the energy balance at the land surface through changes in land cover and surface hydrology. However, continuation of this human activity will eventually lead to atmospheric feedbacks, including changes in cloudiness which may play an important role in the final equilibrium of solar and terrestrial radiation at the surface. In this study, the different components of surface radiation over an undisturbed forest in the Amazon region are computed using data from the Amazon region micrometerological experiment (ARME). Several measures of cloudiness are defined: two estimated from the terrestrial radiation measurements, and one from the solar radiation measurements. The sensitivity of the surface fluxes of solar and terrestrial radiation to natural variability in cloudiness is investigated to infer the potential role of the cloudiness feedback in the surface energy balance. The results of this analysis indicate that a 1% decrease in cloudiness would increase net solar radiation by ca. 1.6 W/m(2). However, the overall magnitude of this feedback, due to total deforestation of the Amazon forest, is likely to be of the same order as the magnitude of the decrease in net solar radiation due to the observed increase in surface albedo following deforestation. Hence, the total change in net solar radiation is likely to have a negligible magnitude. In contrast to this conclusion, we find that terrestrial radiation is likely to be more strongly affected; reduced cloudiness will decrease net terrestrial radiation; a 1% decrease in cloudiness induces a reduction in net terrestrial radiation of ca. 0.7 W/m(2); this process augments the similar effects of the predicted warming and drying in the boundary layer. Due to the cloudiness feedback, the most significant effect of large-scale deforestation on the surface energy balance is likely to be in the modification of the terrestrial radiation field rather than the classical albedo effect on solar radiation fields. The net effect of clouds is to reduce net radiation; a 1% increase in cloudiness induces a reduction in net radiation of ca. 1 W/m(2). The implications of this negative feedback on large-scale land-atmosphere interactions over rainforests are discussed. (C) 1998 Royal Meteorological Society.

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