Increased Frequency of Large Blowdown Formation in Years With Hotter Dry Seasons in the Northwestern Amazon

Tuesday, 15 December 2015: 10:42
2010 (Moscone West)
Sami W Rifai, University of Florida, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Gainesville, FL, United States, Liana O Anderson, INPE National Institute for Space Research, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil; National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters – Cemaden, São José dos Campos, Brazil and Stephanie Bohlman, University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States
Blowdowns, which are large tree mortality events caused by downbursts, create large pulses of carbon emissions in the short term and alter successional dynamics and species composition of forests, thus affecting long term biogeochemical cycling of tropical forests. Changing climate, especially increasing temperatures and frequency of extreme climate events, may cause changes in the frequency of blowdowns, but there has been little spatiotemporal analysis to associate the interannual variation in the frequency of blowdowns with annual climate parameters. We mapped blowdowns greater than 25 ha using a time series of Landsat images from 1984-2012 in the northwestern Amazon to estimate the annual size distribution of these blowdowns. The difference in forest area affected by blowdowns between the years with the highest and lowest blowdown activity were on the order of 10 – 30 times greater depending on location. Spatially, we found the probability of large blowdowns to be higher in regions with higher annual rainfall. Temporally, we found a positive correlation between the probability of large blowdown events and maximum dry season air temperature (R2 = 0.1-0.46). Mean and maximum blowdown size also increased with maximum dry season air temperature. The strength of these relationships varied between scene locations which may be related to cloud cover obscuring the land surface in the satellite images, or biophysical characteristics of the sites. Potentially, elevated dry season temperatures during the transition from the dry season to the wet season (October – December) may exacerbate atmospheric instabilities, which promote downburst occurrences. Most global circulation models predict dry season air temperatures to increase 2-5 ℃ in the northwestern Amazon by 2050. Should the blowdown disturbance regime continue increasing with elevated dry season temperatures, the northwestern Amazon is likely to experience more catastrophic tree mortality events which has direct consequences for both the carbon emissions and carbon storage capacity of the northwestern Amazon.