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Representation of Water Table Dynamics in a Land Surface Scheme. Part I: Model Development

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  • 1 Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Most of the current land surface parameterization schemes lack any representation of regional groundwater aquifers. Such a simplified representation of subsurface hydrological processes would result in significant errors in the predicted land surface states and fluxes especially for the shallow water table areas in humid regions. This study attempts to address this deficiency. To incorporate the water table dynamics into a land surface scheme, a lumped unconfined aquifer model is developed to represent the regional unconfined aquifer as a nonlinear reservoir, in which the aquifer simultaneously receives the recharge from the overlying soils and discharges runoff into streams. The aquifer model is linked to the soil model in the land surface scheme [Land Surface Transfer Scheme (LSX)] through the soil drainage flux. The total thickness of the unsaturated zone varies in response to the water table fluctuations, thereby interactively coupling the aquifer model with the soil model. The coupled model (called LSXGW) has been tested in Illinois for an 11-yr period from 1984 to 1994. The results show reasonable agreements with the observations. However, there are still secondary biases in the LSXGW simulation partially resulting from not accounting for the spatial variability of water table depth. The issue of subgrid variability of water table depth will be addressed in a companion paper.

* Current affiliation: Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Corresponding author address: Dr. Pat J.-F. Yeh, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China. Email: patyeh@hkucc.hku.hk

Abstract

Most of the current land surface parameterization schemes lack any representation of regional groundwater aquifers. Such a simplified representation of subsurface hydrological processes would result in significant errors in the predicted land surface states and fluxes especially for the shallow water table areas in humid regions. This study attempts to address this deficiency. To incorporate the water table dynamics into a land surface scheme, a lumped unconfined aquifer model is developed to represent the regional unconfined aquifer as a nonlinear reservoir, in which the aquifer simultaneously receives the recharge from the overlying soils and discharges runoff into streams. The aquifer model is linked to the soil model in the land surface scheme [Land Surface Transfer Scheme (LSX)] through the soil drainage flux. The total thickness of the unsaturated zone varies in response to the water table fluctuations, thereby interactively coupling the aquifer model with the soil model. The coupled model (called LSXGW) has been tested in Illinois for an 11-yr period from 1984 to 1994. The results show reasonable agreements with the observations. However, there are still secondary biases in the LSXGW simulation partially resulting from not accounting for the spatial variability of water table depth. The issue of subgrid variability of water table depth will be addressed in a companion paper.

* Current affiliation: Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Corresponding author address: Dr. Pat J.-F. Yeh, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China. Email: patyeh@hkucc.hku.hk

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