Drought is a natural disaster that may become more common in the future under climate change. It involves changes to temperature, precipitation and/or land cover, but the relative contributions of each of these factors to overall drought severity is not clear. Here we apply a high-resolution integrated hydrologic model of the High Plains to explore the individual importance of each of these factors and the feedbacks between them. The model was constructed using ParFlow-CLM, which represents surface and subsurface processes in detail with physically based equations. Numerical experiments were run to perturb vegetation, precipitation and temperature separately and in combination. Results show that decreased precipitation caused larger anomalies in evapotranspiration, soil moisture, stream flow and water table levels than increased temperature or disturbed land cover did. However, these factors are not linearly additive when applied in combination; some effects of multifactor runs came from interactions between temperature, precipitation and land cover. Spatial scale was important in characterizing impacts, as unpredictable and nonlinear impacts at small scales aggregate to predictable, linear large-scale behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)