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Characterizing Land–Atmosphere Coupling and the Implications for Subsurface Thermodynamics

Marc StieglitzSchool of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia

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Jason E. SmerdonLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York

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Abstract

The objective of this work is to develop a Simple Land-Interface Model (SLIM) that captures the seasonal and interannual behavior of land–atmosphere coupling, as well as the subsequent subsurface temperature evolution. The model employs the one-dimensional thermal diffusion equation driven by a surface flux boundary condition. While the underlying physics is straightforward, the SLIM framework allows a qualitative understanding of the first-order controls that govern the seasonal coupling between the land and atmosphere by implicitly representing the dominant processes at the land surface. The model is used to perform a suite of experiments that demonstrate how changes in surface air temperature and coupling conditions control subsurface temperature evolution. The work presented here suggests that a collective approach employing both complex and simple models, when joined with analyses of observational data, has the potential to increase understanding of land–atmosphere coupling and the subsequent evolution of subsurface temperatures.

Corresponding author address: Marc Stieglitz, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 790 Atlantic Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30332-0355. Email: marc.stieglitz@ce.gatech.edu

Abstract

The objective of this work is to develop a Simple Land-Interface Model (SLIM) that captures the seasonal and interannual behavior of land–atmosphere coupling, as well as the subsequent subsurface temperature evolution. The model employs the one-dimensional thermal diffusion equation driven by a surface flux boundary condition. While the underlying physics is straightforward, the SLIM framework allows a qualitative understanding of the first-order controls that govern the seasonal coupling between the land and atmosphere by implicitly representing the dominant processes at the land surface. The model is used to perform a suite of experiments that demonstrate how changes in surface air temperature and coupling conditions control subsurface temperature evolution. The work presented here suggests that a collective approach employing both complex and simple models, when joined with analyses of observational data, has the potential to increase understanding of land–atmosphere coupling and the subsequent evolution of subsurface temperatures.

Corresponding author address: Marc Stieglitz, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 790 Atlantic Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30332-0355. Email: marc.stieglitz@ce.gatech.edu

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