On continental to regional scales feedbacks between landuse and landcover change and climate have been widely documented over the past 10¿15 years. In the present study we explore the possibility that also vegetation changes over much smaller areas may affect local precipitation regimes. Large scale ( 105 ha) irrigated plantations in semi-arid environments under particular conditions may affect local circulations and induce additional rainfall. Capturing this rainfall `surplus¿ could then reduce the need for external irrigation sources and eventually lead to self-sustained water cycling. This concept is studied in the coastal plains in South West Saudi Arabia where the mountains of the Asir region exhibit the highest rainfall of the peninsula due to orographic lifting and condensation of moisture imported with the Indian Ocean monsoon and with disturbances from the Mediterranean Sea. We use a regional atmospheric modeling system (RAMS) forced by ECMWF analysis data to resolve the effect of complex surface conditions in high resolution (¿x = 4 km). After validation, these simulations are analysed with a focus on the role of local processes (sea breezes, orographic lifting and the formation of fog in the coastal mountains) in generating rainfall, and on how these will be affected by large scale irrigated plantations in the coastal desert. The validation showed that the model simulates the regional and local weather reasonably well. The simulations exhibit a slightly larger diurnal temperature range than those captured by the observations, but seem to capture daily sea-breeze phenomena well. Monthly rainfall is well reproduced at coarse resolutions, but appears more localized at high resolutions. The hypothetical irrigated plantation (3.25 105 ha) has significant effects on atmospheric moisture, but due to weakened sea breezes this leads to limited increases of rainfall. In terms of recycling of irrigation gifts the rainfall enhancement in this particular setting is rather insignificant.
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