Disentangling day–night contributions toward altering atmospheric desiccation strength for US croplands

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Vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is the difference between saturation and actual water vapor pressures and is driven by interactions between air temperature and humidity. Globally, VPD observations indicate drying of the atmosphere, while air temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH) have changed asymmetrically during daytime versus nighttime. However, whether daytime or nighttime T (Tday and Tnight, respectively) and RH (RHday and RHnight, respectively) have been more important to VPD change is unknown, and so is the seasonal variation of this importance. This research determines the relative contribution of Tday, Tnight, RHday, and RHnight to VPD change observed during 1981–2021 across the conterminous United States. Tday contributed 41% to driving a VPD increase of 2.1 standard deviations (SD), followed by contributions of 25%, 22%, and 12% from RHday, RHnight, and Tnight, respectively. Regions with significant VPD increase have seen increase in Tday (by 1 SD) and Tnight (by 0.9 SD) and a decrease in RHday (by 1 SD) and RHnight (by 3.4 SD). Diurnal asymmetry in warming and drying trends was true for most months, with greater rates of change during the nighttime than daytime. Tday was the dominant driver of the annual mean VPD rise for 70% of the counties, followed by RHday (18%), RHnight (11%), and Tnight (1%). We conclude that warming and drying during the days and nights together explain increased VPD across the US croplands and that climate stressors during days and nights should be viewed independently due to their crop-specific impacts that vary spatially and seasonally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2227-2238
Number of pages12
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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