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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2016-68
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2016-68
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  27 Jul 2016

27 Jul 2016

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Deforestation decreases resistance of simulated Easter Island climate to drought

Alexander Lemburg1,2, Martin Claussen1,2, and Felix Ament1,2 Alexander Lemburg et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg D-20146, Germany
  • 2Meteorological Institute, University of Hamburg D-20146, Germany

Abstract. Easter Island underwent a rapid deforestation several hundred years ago. The causes have been discussed in depth. However, the effect of the deforestation on the near-surface climate of Easter Island and possible feedbacks have not yet been studied. Here we use the limited-area model COSMO to simulate a series of typical weather situations for a fully tree-covered, grass-covered and a bare soil Easter Island, respectively. We find that the top soil layer of the deforested island becomes much warmer and the wind speed roughly doubles, thereby enhancing the erosion on the deforested island. During a drought spell, evapotranspiration decreases much more slowly over a forested area. If the soil has become dry, then the tree-covered island triggers convective precipitation much more efficiently than the bare-soil or grass-covered island could do. This is caused by the higher surface roughness and stronger sensible heat flux which lead to a deeper boundary layer and an enhanced moisture flux convergence over the forested island. Hence, the climate of a deforested Easter Island appears to be significantly less resistant to drought than a forested island and thus, deforestation has probably exacerbated the effects of past climate drought spells on Easter Island socio-ecological systems.

Alexander Lemburg et al.

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Alexander Lemburg et al.

Alexander Lemburg et al.

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Short summary
The deforestation of Easter Island several hundred years ago might have influenced its local near-surface climate. With a series of numerical model experiments we investigate the impact of deforestation on precipitation and near-surface climate. We find that a deforested Easter Island appears to be significantly less resistant to drought than a forested island and thus, deforestation has probably exacerbated the effects of past climate drought spells on Easter Island's socio-ecological systems.
The deforestation of Easter Island several hundred years ago might have influenced its local...
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