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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #367289

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Spatio-temporal analysis of historical and future climate data in the Texas High Plains

item CHEN, YONG - Texas A&M University
item Marek, Gary
item MAREK, THOMAS - Texas A&M Agrilife
item PORTER, DANA - Texas A&M Agrilife
item Moorhead, Jerry
item WANG, QINGYU - Emory University
item HEFLIN, KEVIN - Texas A&M Agrilife
item Brauer, David

Submitted to: Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/23/2020
Publication Date: 7/27/2020
Citation: Chen, Y., Marek, G.W., Marek, T.H., Porter, D.O., Moorhead, J.E., Wang, Q., Heflin, K., Brauer, D.K. 2020. Spatio-temporal analysis of historical and future climate data in the Texas High Plains. Sustainability. 2020. 12(15). Article 6036.

Interpretive Summary: Producers in the semiarid Texas High Plains (THP) rely on groundwater from the declining Ogallala Aquifer for irrigation to supplement erratic and inadequate precipitation for crop production. Although the impacts of future climate change are largely unknown, many modeling forecasts suggest that higher air temperatures and increased frequency and severity of drought may place additional pressure on groundwater resources. However, easily accessible weather data are often incomplete and lack quality assurance and control measures. Researchers from Texas A&M University and USDA-ARS Bushland, TX, performed bias corrected future climate change scenarios using historical data from a network of research-grade weather stations to evaluate future climate scenarios. Overall, results suggest that air temperatures in the THP are expected to rise by approximately 9 degrees on average while precipitation is expected to decrease by approximately 7 percent. These findings have implications for researchers, producers, and modelers looking to develop effective irrigation management strategies for a changing environment.

Technical Abstract: The average annual precipitation in the Texas High Plains (THP) is less than half of the world’s average. Agricultural production in the THP has relied heavily on irrigation and is susceptible to drought due to the decreasing availability of groundwater and increasing air temperatures. Therefore, it is meaningful to perform an overview of possible climate change scenarios to provide appropriate strategies for climate change adaptation in the THP. In this study, spatial-temporal variations of climate data were mapped in the THP during 2000-2010, 2050-2059, and 2090-2099 using 14 research-grade, agricultural production-based meteorological stations and 19 bias-corrected General Circulation Models (GCMs) under representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5. Results indicated bias correction was needed for the GCM-simulated raw data, and different bias correction methods might be used for different climatic parameters and study purposes. For example, using high-quality data from the weather stations, the linear scaling method was selected to alter the projected precipitation data while air temperature data were bias corrected using the quantile mapping method. Generally, future air temperatures are expected to increase in the THP while precipitation would decrease. For instance, at the end of the 21st century (2090-2099) under the severe CO2 emission scenario (RCP 8.5), the maximum and minimum air temperatures could increase 7 degrees C and 5 degrees C across the entire THP, respectively, while precipitation could decrease by approximately 7.5% relative to the historical (2000-2010) observed data. However, large uncertainties were found in air temperature and precipitation values according to 19 GCM projections.