Land-atmosphere feedbacks, in particular the response of land evaporation to vapor pressure deficit (VPD) or the dryness of the air, remain poorly understood. Here we investigate the VPD response by analysis of a large database of eddy covariance flux observations and simulations using a conceptual model of the atmospheric boundary layer. Data analysis reveals that under high VPD and corresponding high temperatures, forest in particular reduces evaporation and emits more sensible heat. In contrast, grass increases evaporation and emits less sensible heat. Simulations show that this VPD feedback can induce significant temperature increases over forest of up to 2 K during heat wave conditions. It is inferred from the simulations that the effect of the VPD feedback corresponds to an apparent soil moisture depletion of more than 50%. This suggests that previous studies may have incorrectly attributed the effects of atmospheric aridity on temperature to soil dryness.
- apparent soil moisture drought
- European forest
- heat waves
- land-atmosphere feedbacks
- response to vapor pressure deficit