Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Rezaul Mahmood (Director), Stuart Foster, Jun Yan

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Eastern Kentucky is a 35-county region that is a part of the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains. With mountaintop removal and associated land cover change (LCC) (primarily deforestation), it is hypothesized that there would be changes in various atmospheric boundary layer parameters and precipitation. In this research, we have conducted sensitivity experiments of atmospheric response of a significant flash flood-producing rainfall event by modifying land cover and topography. These reflect recent LCC, including mountaintop removal (MTR). We have used the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model for this purpose. The study found changes in amount, location, and timing of precipitation. LCC also modified various surface fluxes, moist static energy, planetary boundary layer height, and local-scale circulation wind circulation. The key findings were the modification in fluxes and precipitation totals. With respect to sensible heat flux (H), there was an increase to bare soil (post-MTR) in comparison to pre-MTR conditions (increased elevation with no altered land cover). Allowing for growth of vegetation, the grass simulation resulted in a decrease in H. H increased when permitting the growth of forest land cover (LC) but not to the degree of bare soil. In regards to latent heat flux (LE), there was a dramatic decrease transitioning from pre-MTR to post-MTR simulations. Then with the subsequent grass and forest simulations, there was an increase in LE comparable to the pre-MTR simulation. Under pre-MTR conditions, the total precipitation was at its highest level overall. Then with the simulated loss of vegetation and elevation, there was a dramatic decrease in precipitation. With the grass LC, the precipitation increased in all areas of interest. Then forest LC was simulated allowing overall slightly higher precipitation than grass.


Environmental Sciences | Geography | Physical and Environmental Geography | Remote Sensing