Validating the Land-Atmosphere Coupling Behavior in Weather and Climate Models Using Observationally-Based Global Products

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  • 1 Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
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Abstract

The interactions between land and atmosphere (with terrestrial and atmospheric coupling segments) play a significant role in weather and climate. A predominant segment of land-atmosphere (L-A) feedbacks is the coupling between soil moisture (SM) and surface heat fluxes, the terrestrial coupling leg. The lack of high-quality long-term globally distributed observations, however, has hindered a robust, realistic identification of the terrestrial leg strength on a global scale. This exploratory study provides insight into how SM signals are translated into surface flux signals through the construction of a global depiction of the terrestrial leg from several recently developed global, gridded, observationally- and satellite-based data sets. The feasibility of producing global gridded estimates of L-A coupling metrics is explored. Five weather and climate models used for subseasonal to seasonal forecasting are confronted with the observational estimates to discern discrepancies that may affect their ability to predict phenomena related to L-A feedbacks, such as drought or heat waves. The terrestrial feedback leg from observations corroborates the “hot spots” of L-A coupling found in modeling studies, but the variances in daily time series of surface fluxes differ markedly. Better agreement and generally higher confidence are seen in metrics using latent heat flux than sensible heat flux. Observational metrics allow for clear stratification of model fidelity that is consistent across seasons, despite observational uncertainty. The results highlight the impact of SM on partitioning available surface energy and illustrate the potential of global observationally-based data sets for the assessment of such relationships in weather and climate models.

Corresponding to: Abedeh Abdolghafoorian (E-mail: aabdolgh@gmu.edu)

Abstract

The interactions between land and atmosphere (with terrestrial and atmospheric coupling segments) play a significant role in weather and climate. A predominant segment of land-atmosphere (L-A) feedbacks is the coupling between soil moisture (SM) and surface heat fluxes, the terrestrial coupling leg. The lack of high-quality long-term globally distributed observations, however, has hindered a robust, realistic identification of the terrestrial leg strength on a global scale. This exploratory study provides insight into how SM signals are translated into surface flux signals through the construction of a global depiction of the terrestrial leg from several recently developed global, gridded, observationally- and satellite-based data sets. The feasibility of producing global gridded estimates of L-A coupling metrics is explored. Five weather and climate models used for subseasonal to seasonal forecasting are confronted with the observational estimates to discern discrepancies that may affect their ability to predict phenomena related to L-A feedbacks, such as drought or heat waves. The terrestrial feedback leg from observations corroborates the “hot spots” of L-A coupling found in modeling studies, but the variances in daily time series of surface fluxes differ markedly. Better agreement and generally higher confidence are seen in metrics using latent heat flux than sensible heat flux. Observational metrics allow for clear stratification of model fidelity that is consistent across seasons, despite observational uncertainty. The results highlight the impact of SM on partitioning available surface energy and illustrate the potential of global observationally-based data sets for the assessment of such relationships in weather and climate models.

Corresponding to: Abedeh Abdolghafoorian (E-mail: aabdolgh@gmu.edu)
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