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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Potential Changes in Rainfall Erosivity in the United States under Global Climate Change Scenarios for the 21st Century

item Nearing, Mark

Submitted to: Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2001
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Soil erosion will change in response to changes in climate. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to cause increases in global temperatures, as well as to cause significant changes in rainfall. Some areas of the United States are expected to experience increases in rainfall, and some can expect decreases in rainfall over the next century. In addition to changes in total rainfall, the distributions of rain through the year and the intensity of rainfall can be expected to change as well. With changes in rain will come changes in erosion. We call the power of rain to cause erosion the "erosivity" of rainfall. This study looks at possible changes in rainfall erosivity for the United States in the coming century. We used and compared results from two different climate change models. The results showed that changes in erosivity, and thus changes in soil erosion, are to be expected in the 21st century. Some areas of the U.S. will experience increased erosion, and some will experience less. The results of this study will help us as a society plan better conservation strategies for the future. This will lead to better assessments of our soil resource, better targeting of resources to control erosion, and less soil erosion for our country. The impact will ultimately be continued and higher food production capability for our country.

Technical Abstract: The erosive power of rainfall can be expected to change in correspondence to changes in climate. Such changes could have significant impacts on local and national soil conservation strategies. This study uses results of climate change scenarios from two coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Global Climate Models to investigate the possible levels of change that might be expected over the 21st century. The results of this study indicate the potential for major changes in rainfall erosivity across the continental United States. The spatial distributions of the calculated erosivity changes from the two models indicated some areas of consistency and other areas of inconsistency.

Last Modified: 4/18/2015
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