The Effect of Long Lasting Floods on the Thermal Regime of the Pampas

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Esteban G Jobbagy1, Carlos M Di Bella2, Marcelo D Nosetto1 and Javier Houspanossian1, (1)National University of San Luis, San Luis, Argentina, (2)INTA, Instituto de Clima y Agua, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The presence of large water masses influences the thermal regime on the land, with proximity to the ocean or large continental water bodies having a strong effect on local climate. The vast sedimentary plain of the Pampas (Argentina) has extremely low regional slopes and poor surface drainage networks. Under its temperate subhumid climate this region alternates non-flooded periods with flooding cycles of several years that cover up to one third of the landscape with surface water and bring water tables within 1.5 m form the surface in approximately another third. Based on field temperature records for 50 years from 28 sites located 1 to 700 km away from the Atlantic coast and MODIS land surface temperature data, we explore the effects of floods on diurnal and seasonal thermal amplitude and temperature extremes. In non-flooded periods there is a linear increase of mean diurnal thermal amplitude (MDTA) from the coast towards the interior of the region (MDTA raising from 10 to 18 degrees C, 0.97 degrees C/100 km, r2=0.72). During floods the MTDA of flood prone stations declines between 2 to 4 degrees C depending on surface water coverage in the area. At Pehuajo (500 km away from the ocean, most flooded station), MTDA approached typical coastal values during the three flooding cycles recorded in the study period. Frosts-free periods, which are a key driver of the phenology of both natural and cultivated ecosystems, are extended during flooded periods, while heat waves are reduced in frequency and intensity. Temperature records from shallow groundwater (less than 0.5 m of depth) display a substantial diurnal cycle suggesting that waterlogged land complements surface water bodies in its day/night heat transfer role. Reduced thermal amplitude opens an opportunity for longer crop growing periods, including more intense double cropping, which not only contributes to compensates regional production losses caused by floods but opens an opportunity to mitigate them through higher plant transpiration.