• land-use land-cover change;
  • regional climate modeling;
  • southern South America;
  • near-surface temperature;
  • energy fluxes


A fully coupled atmospheric-biospheric regional climate model, GEMRAMS, was used to evaluate potential effects of land-use/land-cover changes (LULCC) on near-surface atmosphere over a southern South American domain at seasonal time scales. In GEMRAMS, leaf area index and canopy conductance are computed based on modelled temperature, solar radiation, and the water status of the soil and air, allowing a two-way interaction between canopy and atmosphere. Several austral spring-early summer simulations were conducted using land cover representing current (i.e. agricultural landscape), natural (i.e. before European settlement), and afforestation scenarios for three periods associated with El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions. The shift to agriculture resulted in a generalized increase in albedo, reducing the available energy at the near-surface. (Correction added on 21 September 2011 after original online publication: in the preceding sentence the word ‘decrease’ was corrected to ‘increase’.) The energy partitioning between latent and sensible heat fluxes changed, leading to distinct temperature responses. A shift from grass to agriculture led to cooler and wetter near-surface atmospheric conditions. Warmer temperatures resulted from the conversion of wooded grasslands or forest to agriculture. The LULCC-induced signal was spatially heterogeneous and with a seasonal component associated with vegetation phenology. A significant decrease in maximum temperatures in the southern and central Pampas led to a decrease in the diurnal temperature range. Basing on some observational studies in this region our results suggest a potential strong influence of LULCC on the maximum temperatures in central Argentina in summer. Afforestation resulted overall in cooler temperatures. For both LULCC scenarios the direction of the energy fluxes and temperature changes remained in general the same in two extreme ENSO years, although for some vegetation conversions the signal reversed direction. Overall, the impacts were enhanced during a dry year, but the response also depended on the vegetation types involved in the conversion. The effects on precipitation were insignificant in the agriculture-conversion scenario and a general increase was found in the afforested scenario. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society