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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ADAPTING SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING CLIMATE

Location: Great Plains Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research Unit

Title: Evidence of climate change in the 1949-2010 historical climate record of the Fort Cobb experimental watershed, Oklahoma

Authors
item Garbrecht, Jurgen
item Zhang, Xunchang

Submitted to: Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 14, 2013
Publication Date: May 19, 2013
Citation: Garbrecht, J.D., Zhang, X.J. 2013. Evidence of climate change in the 1949-2010 historical climate record of the Fort Cobb experimental watershed, Oklahoma. In: Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress. Showcasing the Future, May 20-22, 2013, Cincinnati, Ohio. 2013 CD-ROM.

Interpretive Summary: In the Southern Great Plains, the severity of droughts has been increasing over recent decades. The distinct possibility that these droughts are related to climate change introduces another challenge to long-term planning of agricultural enterprises and natural resource management. From a practical perspective, an important question is whether these droughts are part of the natural rhythm of climatic variations, or initial signs of evolving, long term local/regional impacts of climate change. If they are related to climate change, then evidence of climate change should be discernible in recent climate records. Precipitation and air temperature records of the Fort Cobb watershed were analyzed to identify trends in climate that could be related to climate change. The historical climate records provided no evidence that changes in precipitation over the last 30 to 40 years were, or were not, as a sign of climate change. However, the rise in annual average temperature was exceptional and likely sign of climate change due to global warming. Agricultural producers and natural resource managers in the Fort Cobb watershed region would be well advised to consider the potential persistence of the recent air temperature trend in their long-term planning of agricultural enterprises and natural resource conservation needs.

Technical Abstract: Seasonal and annual precipitation and air temperature records of the Fort Cobb watershed and the Fort Cobb climate division were analyzed to identify climatic trends over the last 30 to 40 years and infer if these trends could potentially be a sign of climate change due to global warming. Findings suggested that there is no evidence in the historical record that changes in precipitation over the last 30 to 40 years could be explained as a sign of climate change. However, the rise in annual average temperature was exceptional and interpreted as a likely sign of climate change due to global warming. Comparison with climate projections from global circulation models is recommended to support or refute the findings of this study.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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