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Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems, Water & Energy Cycles

The scale and frequency of water-related disasters is increasing. In the 1990s alone there were an estimated 280,000 deaths worldwide due to drought. In fact, nearly 90% of the total deaths due to natural disasters in the 1990s came from hydrometeorological events. It is expected that by 2025 up to 20% of the world’s population is likely to be found in water-scarce countries. Beyond death and human suffering these droughts have large economic impacts. For example, the drought in Zimbabwe of the 1990’s has been tied to a change in GDP of -11%. Important feedbacks and interactions exist between surface moisture and convective precipitation during summer months and these feedbacks have the potential to increase the persistence of droughts. Hence, for a given set of synoptic conditions, the integrated time history of surface water and energy fluxes controls the timing and onset of summertime convective precipitation. NASA has contributed to the understanding of these feedbacks predominately through large-scale climate modeling studies. However, the generality of these results is limited by the coarse resolution of the land-atmosphere dynamics and the highly simplified model formulations. The proposed project seeks to identify the controls and predictability of persistence in extreme droughts from the use of existing remotely sensed data of land surface and cloud conditions. Through the use of distributed data sets, this project will be able to consider the effects of spatial information at potentially important length scales and avoid model-injected-bias. The project will focus on two contrasting geographical regions: 1) the great plains of the US, and 2) the southeastern US. While these regions have very different land cover and average rainfall patterns, they share a susceptibility to persistent droughts and a large economic vulnerability to these events.

Project PI : John Albertson/Duke University

Ciemas 2465 Durham, NC 27708

Phone:(919) 660-5468

Fax:(919) 660-5219

Email: john.albertson@duke.edu

http://fds.duke.edu/db/Nicholas/esp/faculty/jda4h

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Started: Aug 10, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 16, 2010

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