Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas N. Chase

Abstract

Extremely warm, localized heat waves appear to be increasing globally. Since the European summer heat wave of 2003 was preceded by unusual soil moisture conditions, the present study addressed whether anomalies in soil moisture and temperature are correlated temporally and/or spatially in the Northern Hemisphere (NH), and how they may be physically related. Through the exploration of this question, three specific questions were investigated, (1) which years between 1979 and 2012 exhibited spring/summer soil moisture and temperature anomalies exceeding pre-defined thresholds compared to standardized data, (2) whether there are discernible trends in positive and negative soil moisture/temperature anomalies over time and (3) whether areas with anomalous temperatures also experienced soil moisture anomalies. We found that, in a number of regions in the NH, negative soil moisture anomalies in the spring, indicating very dry soil, were significantly correlated with summers with extreme temperatures. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms causing heat waves, and how they vary over time, offers insight into relationships between atmospheric variability and surface processes.

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