The influence of large dams on surrounding climate and precipitation patterns



[1] Understanding the forcings exerted by large dams on local climate is key to establishing if artificial reservoirs inadvertently modify precipitation patterns in impounded river basins. Using a 30 year record of reanalysis data, the spatial gradients of atmospheric variables related to precipitation formation are identified around the reservoir shoreline for 92 large dams of North America. Our study reports that large dams influence local climate most in Mediterranean, and semi-arid climates, while for humid climates the influence is least apparent. Clear spatial gradients of convective available potential energy, specific humidity and surface evaporation are also observed around the fringes between the reservoir shoreline and farther from these dams. Because of the increasing correlation observed between CAPE and extreme precipitation percentiles, our findings point to the possibility of storm intensification in impounded basins of the Mediterranean and arid climates of the United States.