Atmospheric Science

ABERG has several major atmospheric science foci within Andean ecosystems. Research in this sector of ABERG has principally been driven by work from Mark New (Oxford) and  Ana Barros (Duke) although this work always includes interactions and collaboration with other ABERG scientists.

Plant Atmosphere Interactions

Understanding controlling factors of range limits of montane species and tropical treeline distribution through climate is critical for biodiversity conservation in the region and is a principal research question of ABERG that can be assessed with contributions from atmospheric science studies. Likewise, climate influence on productivity and growth of tropical montane forests is essential to understand in order to properly estimate carbon sequestration in the area. ABERG is actively researching the linkages between weather and climate and forest dynamics in several long-term tree plots within and around Manu National Park in Southeastern Peru. The ABERG research team is investigating climate in the Andes using both direct and indirect methods.

Direct Sensing of Climate in Andean Ecosystems

Andean climate is diverse and changes rapidly on multiple spatial scales in relation to both elevation and geomorphology. Data loggers have been installed across the Trocha Union and the Kosnipata valley in an effort to increase the understanding of climate and climate variability in montane Andean forests. Recent work has allowed the ABERG team to expand the climate data logger network throughout valley to provide real-time data collection with internet uplinks. In addition, small weather stations have been installed within the Kosnipata and Tono valleys. In conjunction with Peruvian Servicio Nacional de Meteorological y Hidrologia del Peru’s (SENHAMI) high resolution weather stations, this work has begun to give ABERG a fine-scale picture of climatic variability across the landscape.

For further detail on ABERG findings on this subject, Josh Rapp, of Harvard Forest and a former WFU graduate student with ABERG, thoroughly discusses the topic in his dissertation.

Remote Sensing of Climate in Andean Ecosystems

Several satellite remote sensing systems provide information on the atmospheric dynamics within montane Andean ecosystems. The NASA and NOAA satellite TRMM can provide information on the location and intensity of rainfall events, as well as estimations of water vapor and cloud water. The second generation GOES satellites (GOES-8 through GOES-12) and third generation (GOES-13, -15) provide important large-scale data on cloud dynamics, land surface temperatures, water vapor fields, and vertical atmospheric structure. Members of ABERG, particularly Ana Barros, have utilized these technologies to investigate orographic influences on climate in the Andes; you can find an example of her work here. A further understanding of climate mechanisms in the region will help relate and link ecological communities to the regional climatic system.

Cloud Formation and Dynamics

Cloud formation dynamics and diurnal patterns of immersion are critical controls on biodiversity distribution and ecosystem function in montane systems. Cloud formation results from the balance of air temperature and moisture content, and therefore is highly responsive to climate change, both historical and in the future. There is currently no base-line data for cloud formation on continental tropical mountains although studies within the tropical coastal mountains in Costa Rica have demonstrated that land clearing and warming can have large effects on patterns of cloud formation which are translated directly into changes in biodiversity distributions. Thus, understanding cloud formation dynamics is one major research component integrating both indirect and direct sensing of climate to advance understanding of Andean ecosystems. Radiosonde and tethersonde measurements, in connection with remotely sensed data, have been collected by efforts both at Duke University (with Ana Barros) and Oxford University (with Mark New).