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Global Modeling of Land Water and Energy Balances. Part I: The Land Dynamics (LaD) Model

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  • 1 U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

A simple model of large-scale land (continental) water and energy balances is presented. The model is an extension of an earlier scheme with a record of successful application in climate modeling. The most important changes from the original model include 1) introduction of non-water-stressed stomatal control of transpiration, in order to correct a tendency toward excessive evaporation; 2) conversion from globally constant parameters (with the exception of vegetation-dependent snow-free surface albedo) to more complete vegetation and soil dependence of all parameters, in order to provide more realistic representation of geographic variations in water and energy balances and to enable model-based investigations of land-cover change; 3) introduction of soil sensible heat storage and transport, in order to move toward realistic diurnal-cycle modeling; 4) a groundwater (saturated-zone) storage reservoir, in order to provide more realistic temporal variability of runoff; and 5) a rudimentary runoff-routing scheme for delivery of runoff to the ocean, in order to provide realistic freshwater forcing of the ocean general circulation model component of a global climate model. The new model is tested with forcing from the International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project Initiative I global dataset and a recently produced observation-based water-balance dataset for major river basins of the world. Model performance is evaluated by comparing computed and observed runoff ratios from many major river basins of the world. Special attention is given to distinguishing between two components of the apparent runoff ratio error: the part due to intrinsic model error and the part due to errors in the assumed precipitation forcing. The pattern of discrepancies between modeled and observed runoff ratios is consistent with results from a companion study of precipitation estimation errors. The new model is tuned by adjustment of a globally constant scale factor for non-water-stressed stomatal resistance. After tuning, significant overestimation of runoff is found in environments where an overall arid climate includes a brief but intense wet season. It is shown that this error may be explained by the neglect of upward soil water diffusion from below the root zone during the dry season. With the exception of such basins, and in the absence of precipitation errors, it is estimated that annual runoff ratios simulated by the model would have a root-mean-square error of about 0.05. The new model matches observations better than its predecessor, which has a negative runoff bias and greater scatter.

Current affiliation: Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Corresponding author address: Dr. P. C. D. Milly, Water Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: cmilly@usgs.gov

Abstract

A simple model of large-scale land (continental) water and energy balances is presented. The model is an extension of an earlier scheme with a record of successful application in climate modeling. The most important changes from the original model include 1) introduction of non-water-stressed stomatal control of transpiration, in order to correct a tendency toward excessive evaporation; 2) conversion from globally constant parameters (with the exception of vegetation-dependent snow-free surface albedo) to more complete vegetation and soil dependence of all parameters, in order to provide more realistic representation of geographic variations in water and energy balances and to enable model-based investigations of land-cover change; 3) introduction of soil sensible heat storage and transport, in order to move toward realistic diurnal-cycle modeling; 4) a groundwater (saturated-zone) storage reservoir, in order to provide more realistic temporal variability of runoff; and 5) a rudimentary runoff-routing scheme for delivery of runoff to the ocean, in order to provide realistic freshwater forcing of the ocean general circulation model component of a global climate model. The new model is tested with forcing from the International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project Initiative I global dataset and a recently produced observation-based water-balance dataset for major river basins of the world. Model performance is evaluated by comparing computed and observed runoff ratios from many major river basins of the world. Special attention is given to distinguishing between two components of the apparent runoff ratio error: the part due to intrinsic model error and the part due to errors in the assumed precipitation forcing. The pattern of discrepancies between modeled and observed runoff ratios is consistent with results from a companion study of precipitation estimation errors. The new model is tuned by adjustment of a globally constant scale factor for non-water-stressed stomatal resistance. After tuning, significant overestimation of runoff is found in environments where an overall arid climate includes a brief but intense wet season. It is shown that this error may be explained by the neglect of upward soil water diffusion from below the root zone during the dry season. With the exception of such basins, and in the absence of precipitation errors, it is estimated that annual runoff ratios simulated by the model would have a root-mean-square error of about 0.05. The new model matches observations better than its predecessor, which has a negative runoff bias and greater scatter.

Current affiliation: Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Corresponding author address: Dr. P. C. D. Milly, Water Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: cmilly@usgs.gov

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