Mapping the Climate of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra

DALY C.,HELMER E. H.,QUIÑONES M. Mapping the Climate of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra. International Journal of Climatology. Int. J. Climatol. 23: 1359-1381 (2003).

Spatially explicit climate data contribute to watershed resource management, mapping vegetation type with satellite imagery, mapping present and hypothetical future ecological zones, and predicting species distributions. The regression based Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model (PRISM) uses spatial data sets, a knowledge base and expert interaction to generate GIS-compatible grids of climate variables. This study applied PRISM to generate maps of mean monthly and annual precipitation and minimum and maximum temperature for the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra over the 1963-1995 averaging period. PRISM was run under alternative parameterizations that simulated simpler interpolation methods as well as the full PRISM model. For temperature, the standard PRISM parameterization was compared to a hypsometric method, in which the temperature/elevation slope was assumed to be -6.5°C/km (HYPS). For precipitation, the standard PRISM parameterization was compared to an inverse-distance weighting interpolation (IDW). Spatial temperature patterns were linked closely to elevation, topographic position, and coastal proximity. Both PRISM and HYPS performed well for July maximum temperature, but HYPS performed relatively poorly for January minimum temperature, due primarily to lack of a spatially varying temperature/elevation slope, vertical atmospheric layer definition, and coastal proximity guidance. Mean monthly precipitation varied significantly throughout the year, reflecting seasonally differing moisture trajectories. Spatial precipitation patterns were associated most strongly with elevation, upslope exposure to predominant moisture-bearing winds, and proximity to the ocean. IDW performed poorly compared to PRISM, due largely to the lack of elevation and moisture availability information. Overall, the full PRISM approach resulted in greatly improved performance over simpler methods for precipitation and January minimum temperature, but only a small improvement for July maximum temperature. Comparisons of PRISM mean annual temperature and precipitation maps to previously-published, hand-drawn maps showed similar overall patterns and magnitudes, but the PRISM maps provided much more spatial detail.
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