Ocean–atmosphere interactions modulate irrigation's climate impacts
Abstract. Numerous studies have focused on the local and regional climate effects of irrigated agriculture and other land cover and land use change (LCLUC) phenomena, but there are few studies on the role of ocean–atmosphere interaction in modulating irrigation climate impacts. Here, we compare simulations with and without interactive sea surface temperatures of the equilibrium effect on climate of contemporary (year 2000) irrigation geographic extent and intensity. We find that ocean–atmosphere interaction does impact the magnitude of global-mean and spatially varying climate impacts, greatly increasing their global reach. Local climate effects in the irrigated regions remain broadly similar, while non-local effects, particularly over the oceans, tend to be larger. The interaction amplifies irrigation-driven standing wave patterns in the tropics and midlatitudes in our simulations, approximately doubling the global-mean amplitude of surface temperature changes due to irrigation. The fractions of global area experiencing significant annual-mean surface air temperature and precipitation change also approximately double with ocean–atmosphere interaction. Subject to confirmation with other models, these findings imply that LCLUC is an important contributor to climate change even in remote areas such as the Southern Ocean, and that attribution studies should include interactive oceans and need to consider LCLUC, including irrigation, as a truly global forcing that affects climate and the water cycle over ocean as well as land areas.