Forest Disturbance Feedbacks From Bedrock to Atmosphere Using Coupled Hydrometeorological Simulations Over the Rocky Mountain Headwaters

Mary M. Forrester, Reed M. Maxwell, Lindsay A. Bearup, David J. Gochis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The mountain pine beetle (MPB) has dramatically influenced high-elevation pine forests of western North America, with recent infestations causing millions of acres of forest mortality and basal area loss. While ecohydrologic implications of infestation have been studied extensively in recent years, few have explored atmospheric feedbacks of widespread canopy transpiration loss or the potential role of groundwater to amplify or mitigate changes to land energy. This work presents bedrock-to-atmosphere simulations of coupled meteorological and hydrologic states over the Colorado headwaters. Analyses compare configurations with (1) default land surface parameters and (2) disturbance simulations with adjusted transpiration parameters in infested cells. An analysis of variance was conducted to identify regions of significant response to mountain pine beetle. Changes to increased soil moisture and Bowen ratios were found to be statistically significant in MPB-infested areas and in nonlocal valleys, while planetary boundary layer (PBL) response was significant only in high elevations of the headwaters watershed. Temperature-humidity covariance was evaluated using mixing diagrams; the results suggest that increased surface Bowen ratios from MPB could affect entrainment of dry air from the troposphere. The PBL is hotter, drier, and higher under infested forest conditions, which could have implications to atmosphere-vegetation feedbacks and forest drought stress. Finally, land-atmosphere coupling was sensitive to antecedent subsurface moisture. Regions with shallow water tables exhibit greater magnitude response to MPB at the surface and in the PBL, a finding that has repercussions for ecosystem resilience and hydrologic representation in meteorological modeling.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9026-9046
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 16 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science


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