Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Rezaul Mahmood (Director), Dr. Arturo Quintanar,Dr. Stuart Foster, Dr. Gregory Goodrich

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


A series of land-use-land-cover-change (LULCC) based sensitivity experiments, including changes in vegetation type, fractional vegetation (FV), and soil moisture (SM), over Western Kentucky were conducted to investigate atmospheric response to land-use. The choice of land-use for this study was chosen in the context of Western Kentucky’s historical LULCC. For this study, vegetation types considered were grassland, forest, and bare soil with further variations in FV for grassland and forest at 25, 50, 75, and 100 % and systematic increases and decreases in volumetric SM of 0.05, 0.10, and 0.15 m3 m-3. To the author’s knowledge, this is the first assessment of its kind that incorporates these types of LULCC in a single study. In addition, typical anthropogenic land-use change often incorporates several types of LULCC. Moreover, this assessment provides a robust analysis of the impacts LULCC has on atmospheric processes over Western Kentucky.

To simulate the importance of land-use on atmospheric processes, a well known meso-scale model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) MM5 coupled with an intermediately complex land surface model (LSM) Noah was used. The purpose of this research is to investigate the impact of multiple types of LULCC on planetary boundary layer (PBL) evolution, PBL stability, near surface 3D-wind fields, temperature, and moisture. Furthermore, it is anticipated that multiple types of LULCC will provide more insight into the complex nonlinear land-atmosphere interactions from atmospheric, air quality, and climatology perspectives.

Modeling analysis revealed the importance of land-use on atmospheric processes. Changes in all three types of LULCC (land-cover, FV, and SM) altered the distribution of surface energy and moisture, PBL structure, 3D-wind fields, and PBL stability. In general, it was found that LULCC that enhanced (diminished) ET rates reduced (increased) sensible heat flux, atmospheric temperature and, and PBL heights below (above) control (CTRL). For instance, the conversion of land-cover from CTRL to grassland reduced 2 m temperature and PBL heights by 0.60 °C and 228 m respectively compared to CTRL due to an evaporative advantage (lower stomata resistance). Multiple types of land-use change were found to either offset or enhance overall modeled response to LULCC. A reduction in FV to 25 % over grassland diminished ET despite the evaporation advantage of grassland and increased 2 m temperature and PBL heights with respect to CTRL by 3.3 °C and 504 m. These results significantly altered horizontal and vertical wind fields, affecting moisture advection and the development of meso-scale circulations. Compared to CTRL, these differences were enhanced over drier soils, but muted over moist soils. Moreover, the impact of LULCC on atmosphere evolution was not only dependent on the type of LULCC, but also on the current state of other unaltered land surface features such as vegetation type, FV, and SM.

Alterations to modeled PBL development, as a result of LULCC, can have important impacts on a region’s climatology and air quality. Simulated changes in typical PBL moisture and temperature through time can affect local and regional climatology. Depending on the type of LULCC, these alterations in climate may lead to localized cooling. In addition, it was further hypothesized that changes in PBL height can affect air quality. Given the capping inversion layer at the top of the PBL, changes in PBL heights can significantly affect air quality with lower (higher) PBL heights diminishing (enhancing) air quality. Moreover, this research prescribes the importance of considering LULCC in atmospheric assessments of climatology and air quality, including pollutant dispersion and trajectory modeling.


Earth Sciences | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Sciences | Sustainability