Does Afternoon Precipitation Occur Preferentially over Dry or Wet Soils in Oklahoma?

Trent W. Ford Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Anita D. Rapp Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Steven M. Quiring Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Abstract

Soil moisture is an integral part of the climate system and can drive land–atmosphere interactions through the partitioning of latent and sensible heat. Soil moisture feedback to precipitation has been documented in several regions of the world, most notably in the southern Great Plains. However, the impact of soil moisture on precipitation, particularly at short (subdaily) time scales, has not been resolved. Here, in situ soil moisture observations and satellite-based precipitation estimates are used to examine if afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet or dry soils in Oklahoma. Afternoon precipitation events during the warm season (May–September) in Oklahoma from 2003 and 2012 are categorized by how favorable atmospheric conditions are for convection, as well as the presence or absence of the Great Plains low-level jet. The results show afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet soils when the Great Plains low-level jet is absent. In contrast, precipitation falls preferentially over dry soils when the low-level jet is present. Humidity (temperature) is increased (decreased) as soil moisture increases for all conditions, and convective available potential energy prior to convection is strongest when atmospheric humidity is above normal. The results do not demonstrate a causal link between soil moisture and precipitation, but they do suggest that soil moisture feedback to precipitation could potentially manifest itself over wetter- and drier-than-normal soils, depending on the overall synoptic and dynamic conditions.

Corresponding author address: Trent Ford, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, 810 Eller O&M, College Station, TX 77843-3147. E-mail: twford@tamu.edu

Abstract

Soil moisture is an integral part of the climate system and can drive land–atmosphere interactions through the partitioning of latent and sensible heat. Soil moisture feedback to precipitation has been documented in several regions of the world, most notably in the southern Great Plains. However, the impact of soil moisture on precipitation, particularly at short (subdaily) time scales, has not been resolved. Here, in situ soil moisture observations and satellite-based precipitation estimates are used to examine if afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet or dry soils in Oklahoma. Afternoon precipitation events during the warm season (May–September) in Oklahoma from 2003 and 2012 are categorized by how favorable atmospheric conditions are for convection, as well as the presence or absence of the Great Plains low-level jet. The results show afternoon precipitation falls preferentially over wet soils when the Great Plains low-level jet is absent. In contrast, precipitation falls preferentially over dry soils when the low-level jet is present. Humidity (temperature) is increased (decreased) as soil moisture increases for all conditions, and convective available potential energy prior to convection is strongest when atmospheric humidity is above normal. The results do not demonstrate a causal link between soil moisture and precipitation, but they do suggest that soil moisture feedback to precipitation could potentially manifest itself over wetter- and drier-than-normal soils, depending on the overall synoptic and dynamic conditions.

Corresponding author address: Trent Ford, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, 810 Eller O&M, College Station, TX 77843-3147. E-mail: twford@tamu.edu
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