Research

ICECAP Research Background

Snow-covered Andes MountainsResearch efforts led by Appalachian State University focused in the tropical Andes date back to 2009. These efforts have revealed that most precipitation occurs at night, is likely stratiform rather than convective in structure, and is associated with Amazonian moisture transport arriving from the northwest. These findings upend conventional understanding on regional precipitation in the scientific literature. ICECAP seeks to discover whether these patterns also hold for other regions in the tropical Andes.

Photo Credit: Tracie Seimon

Recent investigations have demonstrated that many of the basic tenets of precipitation delivery mechanisms in the tropical Andes need to be reassessed. Data sources include hourly observations of precipitation from Cusco International Airport and twice-daily precipitation observations from Peruvian cooperative observer stations. In particular, this work demonstrated:

  1. Precipitation timing is bimodal, with heavy precipitation most likely to occur at night.
  2. Nighttime precipitation is inferred to be primarily stratiform.
  3. Precipitation moisture trajectories are primarily from the northwest.
  4. The Amazon basin is the dominant source region, but the Pacific may also provide a source for some events.
  5. Positive precipitation anomalies on annual time-scales are associated with El Niño and the inverse for La Niña.

Further information on previous research visit Dr. Baker Perry's personal website.

ICECAP Research Overview

ICECAP is transformative with an objective of investigating the multiple spatiotemporal atmospheric processes associated with precipitation delivery in the tropical Andes. Understanding these processes is of considerable importance to climate variability and change, glacier behavior, hydrology, agriculture, ecosystems, and paleoclimatic reconstructions. The research addresses the following in detail:

  1. Precipitation variability in tropical high mountains is a fundamental, yet poorly understood, factor influencing local climatic expression and a variety of environmental processes, including glacier behavior and water resource distribution.
  2. Precipitation phase (e.g., rain vs. snow), timing (e.g., afternoon vs. overnight), frequency, and amount influence surface albedo and soil moisture, whereas cloud cover associated with precipitation events reduces solar irradiance.
  3. The uncertainty that remains in the multiscale atmospheric processes influencing precipitation patterns and their associated regional variability in the tropical Andes – particularly related to precipitation phase, timing, and vertical structure.

Research Plan

Baker Perry doing research in Andes Mountains

The tropical Andes Mountains serves as the study site, with in-situ observations focusing on the glacierized regions above 4,000 m in the Cordillera Vilcanota (Peru) and Cordillera Real (Bolivia) and adjacent populated valleys. Whereas climatological analyses of longer-term patterns of precipitation will use available data from the broader tropical Andean region, focused field research activities and intensive observation periods (IOPs) will be based in the Cordillera Vilcanota and the Cordillera Real. These two cordilleras encompass 862 km2 of glacierized area and the Cordillera Vilcanota is home to the Quelccaya Icecap, the largest glacier in the tropics and one of the most important paleoarchives in the tropics. Both cordilleras also serve as critical water towers; the La Paz/El Alto megalopolis (~2 million) is immediately adjacent to the Cordillera Real in Bolivia and the Cusco/Sacred Valley region (~1.2 million) is downstream from the nearby Cordillera Vilcanota in Peru. These two principal cordilleras also offer important latitudinal contrasts and differences in regional topography that may influence precipitation patterns.

Photo Credit: Tracie Seimon

Primary Research Questions

  • Andes Mountain scene with native and sheep

    Question 1: How do the temporal patterns, moisture source regions, and El Niño-Southern Oscillation relationships with precipitation occurrence vary in the tropical Andes?

  • Question 2: What is the vertical structure (e.g., echo top heights, moist layer depths, melting layer heights) of tropical Andean precipitation and how does it evolve temporally?

Short Term Research Activities

July to November 2014:

  • Install precipitation monitoring stations on the Quelccaya Icecap and at Chacaltaya (Cordillera Real), Bolivia.
  • Recruit and train additional citizen science precipitation observers in the Cordilleras Vilcanota and Cordillera Real.
  • Investigate the vertical structure of precipitation with weather balloon releases and a vertically-pointing radar.
  • Categorize snow particle type and degree of riming, which may provide insight to cloud microphysical processes.

Photo Credit: Anton Seimon

 

Recent Publications:

Schauwecker, S., M. Rohrer, C. Huggel, J. Endries, N. Montoya, R. Neukom, L.B. Perry, N. Salzmann, M. Schwarb, W. Suarez. 2017. The freezing level in the tropical Andes, Peru: an indicator for present and future glacier extents. Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres 122, doi:10.1002/2016JD025943.

Perry, L.B., A. Seimon, M. Andrade-Flores, J.L. Endries, S.E. Yuter, F. Velarde, S. Arias, M. Bonshoms, E.J. Burton, R. Winkelmann, C.M. Cooper, G. Mamani, M. Rado, N. Montoya, N. Quispe. 2017. Characteristics of precipitating storms in glacierized tropical Andean cordilleras of Peru and Bolivia. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107: 309–322. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2016.1260439

Kronenberg, M., S. Schauwecker, C. Huggel, N. Salzmann, F. Drenkhan, H. Frey, C. Giráldez, W. Gurgiser, G. Kaser, I. Juen, W. Suarez, J.G. Hernández, J.F. Sanmartín, E. Ayros, L.B. Perry, M. Rohrer. 2016. The projected precipitation reduction over the Central Andes may severely affect Peruvian glaciers and hydropower production. Energy Procedia 97: 270-277. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2016.10.072

Burton, E.J., L.B. Perry, M. Bonshoms, A. Seimon, N. Quispe, G. Mamani. 2015. Vertical structure, melting layer heights, and antecedent upstream air trajectories associated with precipitation events during the 2014-15 wet season in the central Andes of Peru. Proceedings of the 72nd Eastern Snow Conference, 181-190.

Poremba, R., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, D.T. Martin, A. Tupayachi. 2015. Meteorological characteristics of heavy snowfall in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru. Proceedings of the 72nd Eastern Snow Conference, 167-180.

Perry, L.B., A. Seimon, G.M. Kelly. 2014. Precipitation delivery in the tropical high Andes of southern Peru: New findings and paleoclimatic implications. International Journal of Climatology 34: 197-215. DOI: 10.1002/joc.3679.

 

Recent Master’s Theses Supervised

Endries, J.L. 2017. Radar-Observed Characteristics of Precipitation in the Tropical High Andes of Southern Peru and Bolivia. Committee: L.B. Perry (Chair), S.E. Yuter, A. Seimon

 

Recent First-Authored Student Oral Presentations

Burton, E.J., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, J.L. Endries, S. Arias, M. Rado, N. Montoya, J.H. Thaggard. 2016. Synoptic Patterns Associated with Heavy Snowfall Events on the Quelccaya Icecap of Peru. Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers, Columbia, SC.

Endries, J.L., L.B. Perry, S.E. Yuter, A. Seimon, M. Andrade-Flores, G. Mamani, M. Bonshoms, F. Velarde, R. Winkelmann, M. Rado, N. Montoya, S. Arias. Looking Vertically: Vertical Structure and Character of Precipitation in the Tropical High Andes of Bolivia and Southern Peru. Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers, Columbia, SC.

Montpellier, E.E., L.B. Perry, I. Moreno, M. Andrade-Flores, J.L. Endries, A. Seimon, F. Velarde, M. Rohrer, C. Huggel. 2016. ENSO-Precipitation Relationships in the Central Andes. Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers, Columbia, SC.

Cooper, C.M., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon. 2014. An Integrated Approach to Andean Precipitation Research through Citizen Science and Study Abroad Initiatives in the Tropical Andes. Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Athens, GA.


Recent First-Authored Student Poster Presentations

Endries, J.L., L.B. Perry, S.E. Yuter, A. Seimon, M. Andrade-Flores, G. Mamani, M. Bonshoms, F. Velarde, R. Winkelmann, M. Rado, N. Montoya, S. Arias. 2017. Vertical Structure and Character of Precipitation in the Tropical High Andes of Bolivia and Southern Peru. Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Seattle, WA.

Thaggard, J.H., L.B. Perry, S. Arias, E.J. Burton, M. Rado, N. Montoya, A. Seimon. 2016. Observations from New Meteorological Stations on the Quelccaya Icecap and Quisoquipina Glacier, Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru: 2014-2016. Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers, Columbia, SC.

Burton, E.J., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, J.L. Endries, M. Rado, S. Arias. 2016. Synoptic patterns associated with snowfall events on the Quelccaya Icecap of Peru during the 2014-15 wet season. 73rd Eastern Snow Conference, Columbus, OH.

Cooper, C.M., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, M. Rado, A. Tupayachi. 2016. Citizen science climate observations in data scarce regions of the tropical Andes. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, San Francisco, CA.

Burton, E.J., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, J.L. Endries, M. Rado, S. Arias. 2016. Synoptic patterns associated with snowfall events on the Quelccaya Icecap of Peru during the 2014-15 wet season. National Conference of Undergraduate Research, Asheville, NC.

Burton, E.J., L.B. Perry, M. Bonshoms, G. Mamani, N. Quispe. 2015. Vertical structure, melting layer heights, and antecedent upstream air trajectories associated with precipitation events in the central Andes of Peru. 72nd Eastern Snow Conference, Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Poremba, R.J., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, D.T. Martin, A. Tupayachi. 2015. Meteorological characteristics of heavy snowfall events in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru. 72nd Eastern Snow Conference, Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Poremba, R.J., L.B. Perry, A. Seimon, D.T. Martin, A. Tupayachi. 2014 Monthly and annual patterns from new meteorological stations in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru. 71st Eastern Snow Conference, Boone, NC.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number AGS-1347179. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.