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Jeremy Johnston
,
Jennifer M. Jacobs
, and
Eunsang Cho

Abstract

Snow cover provides distinct seasonal controls on the exchange of energy between Earth’s surface and atmosphere, and on hydrologic cycling, and holds considerable importance to communities and ecosystems worldwide. In this work, we tackle a comprehensive review of existing snow classification approaches and the development of new globally applicable snow cover–based rules for delineating snow seasonality classes. Snow classification rules are defined using machine learning approaches, which are then applied to the 22-yr record of snow cover (2000–22) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on a 0.01° global grid. For the MODIS period of record, we find the global land surface can be effectively partitioned into five snow seasonality classes: no snow, ephemeral, transitional, seasonal, and perennial snow regimes which on average cover extents of approximately 76 (52% of global land areas), 19 (13%), 16 (11%), 18 (13%), and 16 million km2 (11%), respectively. Using the multidecadal dataset, we explore changes within snow regimes and find significant increases in the areal extent of no snow (approximately +70 000 km2 yr−1) as well as apparent losses in perennial (−3600 km2 yr−1) and seasonal snow regime coverage (−38 000 km2 yr−1). The resulting classification maps have strong agreement with in situ snow depth observations and present similar patterns to existing snow and climate classifications with notable discrepancies in cold arid regions. The framework’s ability to accurately capture variations in snow persistence, snow accumulation, and melt cycling is shown, providing a reference to the current state of global snow seasonality.

Significance Statement

Following a review of existing snow classification approaches, this study focuses on improving our understanding of snow-cover variability on Earth by using satellite-based observations of snow-covered area to derive a new snow classification. Satellite observations provide the best means of measuring snow cover at a global scale, helping to identify regions where its influence on energy, water, and climate is changing. The results are compared to existing climate and snow summaries, ground observations of snow depth, and include trends in snow cover over recent decades (2000–22). The resulting datasets are also made available to the broader scientific community.

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Alida Thiombiano
,
Alain Pietroniro
,
Tricia Stadnyk
,
Hyung Eum
,
Babak Farjad
,
Anil Gupta
, and
Barrie Bonsal

Abstract

Freshwater supplies in most western Canadian watersheds are threatened by the warming of temperatures because it alters the snow-dominated hydrologic patterns that characterize these cold regions. In this study, we used datasets from 12 climate simulations, which are associated with seven global climate models and four future scenarios and are participating in phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, to calculate and assess the historical and future temporal patterns of 13 hydroclimate indicators relevant to water resources management. We conducted linear long-term trend and change analyses on their annual time series to provide insight into the potential regional impacts of the detected changes on water availability for all users. We implemented our framework on the Alberta oil sands region in Canada to support the monitoring of environmental changes in this region, relative to the established baseline 1985–2014. Our analysis indicates a persistent increase in the occurrence of extreme hot temperatures, fewer extreme cold temperatures, and an increase in warm spells and heatwaves, while precipitation-related indices show minor changes. Consequently, deficits in regional water availability during summer and water-year periods, as depicted by the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration indices, are expected. The combined effects of the strong climate warming signals and the small increases in precipitation annual amounts generally detected in this study suggest that drier conditions may become severe and frequent in the Alberta oil sands region. The challenging climate change risks identified for this region should therefore be continuously monitored, updated, and integrated to support a sustainable management for all water users.

Open access
Pei-Ning Feng
,
Stéphane Bélair
,
Dikraa Khedhaouiria
,
Franck Lespinas
,
Eva Mekis
, and
Julie M. Thériault

Abstract

The Canadian Precipitation Analysis System (CaPA) is an operational system that uses a combination of weather gauge and ground-based radar measurements together with short-term forecasts from a numerical weather model to provide near-real-time estimates of 6- and 24-h precipitation amounts. During the winter season, many gauge measurements are rejected by the CaPA quality control process because of the wind-induced undercatch for solid precipitation. The goal of this study is to improve the precipitation estimates over central Canada during the winter seasons from 2019 to 2022. Two approaches were tested. First, the quality control procedure in CaPA has been relaxed to increase the number of surface observations assimilated. Second, the automatic solid precipitation measurements were adjusted using a universal transfer function to compensate for the undercatch problem. Although increasing the wind speed threshold resulted in lower amounts and worse biases in frequency, the overall precipitation estimates are improved as the equitable threat score is improved because of a substantial decrease in the false alarm ratio, which compensates the degradation of the probability of detection. The increase of solid precipitation amounts using a transfer function improves the biases in both frequency and amounts and the probability of detection for all precipitation thresholds. However, the false alarm ratio deteriorates for large thresholds. The statistics vary from year to year, but an overall improvement is demonstrated by increasing the number of stations and adjusting the solid precipitation amounts for wind speed undercatch.

Open access
Wade T. Crow
,
Hyunglok Kim
, and
Sujay Kumar

Abstract

Due to recent advances in the development of land data assimilation systems (LDAS) and the availability of high-quality, satellite-based surface soil moisture (SSM) retrieval products, we now have unambiguous evidence that the assimilation of SSM retrievals, or their proxy, can improve the precision (i.e., correlation versus truth) of surface state estimates provided by a land surface model (LSM). However, this clarity does not yet extend to the estimation of LSM surface water fluxes that are key to hydrologic and numerical weather forecasting applications. Here, we hypothesize that a key obstacle to extrapolating realized improvements in water state precision into comparable improvements in water flux accuracy (i.e., mean absolute error) is the presence of water state–water flux coupling strength biases existing in LSMs. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a series of synthetic fraternal twin data assimilation experiments where realistic levels of state–flux coupling strength bias—involving both evapotranspiration and runoff—are systematically introduced into an assimilation LSM. Results show that the accuracy of the resulting water flux analysis is sharply reduced by the presence of such bias, even in cases where the precision of soil moisture state estimates (e.g., SSM) is improved. The rescaling of SSM observations prior to their assimilation (i.e., the most common approach for addressing systematic differences between LSMs and assimilated observations) is not always a robust strategy for addressing these errors and can, in certain circumstances, degrade water flux accuracy. Overall, results underscore the critical need to assess, and correct for, LSM water state–water flux coupling strength biases during the operation of an LDAS.

Significance Statement

Land data assimilation is the process by which land surface model estimates of water states (e.g., soil moisture) and water fluxes (e.g., runoff and evapotranspiration) are improved via the incorporation of observations. Over the past decade, substantial improvements have been made in the precision of land surface model states via the assimilation of satellite-based soil moisture information. However, to date, these improvements have not yet been extended into water flux estimates like runoff and evapotranspiration. This is a critical shortcoming since advances in important weather and hydrologic forecasting applications are dependent on the improved estimation of such fluxes. We demonstrate that this shortcoming is linked to the inability of existing land surface models to accurately describe the impact of variations in water states on water fluxes and propose strategies for overcoming this issue in future land data assimilation systems.

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Nanditha J. S.
and
Vimal Mishra

Abstract

Widespread floods affecting multiple subbasins in a river basin have implications for infrastructure, agriculture, environment, and groundwater recharge. However, the crucial linkage between widespread floods and their drivers remains unexplored for Indian sub-continental river basins. Here, we examine the occurrence and drivers of widespread flooding in seven Indian sub-continental river basins during the observed climate (1959-2020). The peninsular river basins have a high probability of widespread flooding, compared to the transboundary basins of Ganga and Brahmaputra. Favorable antecedent baseflow and soil moisture conditions, uniform precipitation distribution, and precipitation seasonality determine the probability of widespread floods in Indian river basins. The widespread floods are associated with large atmospheric circulations that cause precipitation in a large part of a river basin. Our findings highlight the prominent drivers and mechanisms of widespread floods with implications for flood mitigation in India.

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Free access
Subhasmita Dash
,
Rajib Maity
, and
Harald Kunstmann

Abstract

This study explores the population exposure to an increasing number of hydroclimatic extreme events owing to the warming climate. It is well agreed that the extreme events are increasing in terms of frequency as well as intensity due to climate change and that the exposure to compound extreme events (concurrent occurrence of two or more extreme phenomena) affects population, ecosystems, and a variety of socioeconomic aspects more adversely. Specifically, the compound precipitation–temperature extremes (hot-dry and hot-wet) are considered, and the entire Indian mainland is regarded as the study region that spans over a wide variety of climatic regimes and wide variation of population density. The developed copula-based statistical method evaluates the change in population exposure to the compound extremes across the past (1981–2020) and future (near future: 2021–60 and far future: 2061–2100) due to climate change. The results indicate an increase of more than 10 million person-year exposure from the compound extremes across many regions of the country, considering both near and far future periods. Densely populated regions have experienced more significant changes in hot-wet extremes as compared with the hot-dry extremes in the past, and the same is projected to continue in the future. The increase is as much as sixfold in many parts of the country, including the Indo-Gangetic Plain and southernmost coastal regions, identified as the future hotspots with the maximum increase in exposure under all the projected warming and population scenarios. The study helps to identify the regions that may need greater attention based on the risks of population exposure to compound extremes in a warmer future.

Significance Statement

How is the growing population being affected now, and in the future, how will it be affected due to climate change induced compound extreme events? This study explores this societal consequence in terms of population exposure for the most populous country, India. An increase of more than 10 million person-year exposure from the precipitation–temperature compound extremes across many regions is indicated. Densely populated regions are expected to experience enhanced population exposure to hot-wet extremes as compared with the hot-dry extremes. Furthermore, the maximum increase in population exposure to compound extremes is expected across the Indo-Gangetic Plain and southern coastal regions of India. The outcome of the study will be helpful for adopting socioeconomic decisions toward the welfare of society.

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Michel Bechtold
,
Sara Modanesi
,
Hans Lievens
,
Pierre Baguis
,
Isis Brangers
,
Alberto Carrassi
,
Augusto Getirana
,
Alexander Gruber
,
Zdenko Heyvaert
,
Christian Massari
,
Samuel Scherrer
,
Stéphane Vannitsem
, and
Gabrielle De Lannoy

Abstract

Accurate streamflow simulations rely on good estimates of the catchment-scale soil moisture distribution. Here, we evaluated the potential of Sentinel-1 backscatter data assimilation (DA) to improve soil moisture and streamflow estimates. Our DA system consisted of the Noah-MP land surface model coupled to the HyMAP river routing model and the water cloud model as a backscatter observation operator. The DA system was set up at 0.01° resolution for two contrasting catchments in Belgium: (i) the Demer catchment dominated by agriculture and (ii) the Ourthe catchment dominated by mixed forests. We present the results of two experiments with an ensemble Kalman filter updating either soil moisture only or soil moisture and leaf area index (LAI). The DA experiments covered the period from January 2015 through August 2021 and were evaluated with independent rainfall error estimates based on station data, LAI from optical remote sensing, soil moisture retrievals from passive microwave observations, and streamflow measurements. Our results indicate that the assimilation of Sentinel-1 backscatter observations can partly correct errors in surface soil moisture due to rainfall errors and overall improve surface soil moisture estimates. However, updating soil moisture and LAI simultaneously did not bring any benefit over updating soil moisture only. Our results further indicate that streamflow estimates can be improved through Sentinel-1 DA in a catchment with strong soil moisture–runoff coupling, as observed for the Ourthe catchment, suggesting that there is potential for Sentinel-1 DA even for forested catchments.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to improve streamflow estimation by integrating soil moisture information from satellite observations into a hydrological modeling framework. This is important preparatory work for operational centers that are responsible for producing the most accurate flood forecasts for the society. Our results provide new insights into how and where streamflow forecasting could benefit from high-spatial-resolution Sentinel-1 radar backscatter observations.

Open access
Janice L. Bytheway
,
Elizabeth J. Thompson
,
Jie Yang
, and
Haonan Chen

Abstract

High-resolution oceanic precipitation estimates are needed to increase our understanding of and ability to monitor ocean–atmosphere coupled processes. Satellite multisensor precipitation products such as IMERG provide global precipitation estimates at relatively high resolution (0.1°, 30 min), but the resolution at which IMERG precipitation estimates are considered reliable is coarser than the nominal resolution of the product itself. In this study, we examine the ability of the Rainfall Autoregressive Model (RainFARM) statistical downscaling technique to produce ensembles of precipitation fields at relatively high spatial and temporal resolution when applied to spatially and temporally coarsened precipitation fields from IMERG. The downscaled precipitation ensembles are evaluated against in situ oceanic rain-rate observations collected by passive aquatic listeners (PALs) in 11 different ocean domains. We also evaluate IMERG coarsened to the same resolution as the downscaled fields to determine whether the process of coarsening then downscaling improves precipitation estimates more than averaging IMERG to coarser resolution only. Evaluations were performed on individual months, seasons, by ENSO phase, and based on precipitation characteristics. Results were inconsistent, with downscaling improving precipitation estimates in some domains and time periods and producing worse performance in others. While the results imply that the performance of the downscaled precipitation estimates is related to precipitation characteristics, it is still unclear what characteristics or combinations thereof lead to the most improvement or consistent improvement when applying RainFARM to IMERG.

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Sam Pennypacker
and
Robert Wood

Abstract

The expansion of the boreal forest poleward is a potentially important driver of feedbacks between the land surface and Arctic climate. A growing body of work has highlighted the importance of differences in evaporative resistance between different possible future Arctic land covers, which in turn alters humidity and cloudiness in the boundary layer, for these feedbacks. While thus far this problem has been studied primarily with complex Earth system models, we turn to a locally focused, idealized model capable of diagnosing and testing the sensitivity of first-order processes connecting vegetation, the atmospheric boundary layer, and low clouds in this critical region. This allows us to benchmark the mechanisms and results at the center of predictions from larger-scale simulations. A surface dominated by broadleaf trees, characterized by higher albedo and lower surface evaporative resistance, drives cooling and moistening of the boundary layer relative to a surface of needleleaf trees, characterized by lower albedo and higher surface evaporative resistance. Differences in evaporative resistance between these hypothetical Arctic vegetation covers are of equal importance to changes in albedo for the initial response of the boundary layer to boreal expansion, even with our idealized approach. However, compensation between the elevation of the lifting condensation level (LCL) and more rapid growth of the mixed layer over higher evaporative resistance surfaces can minimize changes in the favorability of shallow clouds over different land cover types under some conditions. We then perform two tests on the sensitivity of this compensating effect, to changes in water availability, represented first by a reduction in boundary layer humidity and then by both a reduction in humidity and soil moisture available to our vegetation surface. Finally, given the importance of this potential LCL–mixed-layer height compensation in our idealized modeling results, we look to determine its relevance in observational data from a field campaign in boreal Finland. These observations do confirm that such a coupling plays an important role in cumulus-topped boundary layers over a needleleaf forest surface. While our results confirm some underlying mechanisms at the center of prior work with Earth system models, they also provide motivation for future work to constrain the impact of boreal forest expansion. This will include both large eddy simulations to examine the impact of processes and feedbacks not resolved by a mixed-layer model, as well as a more systematic evaluation and comparison of relevant observations at the site in Finland and sites from prior boreal field campaigns.

Significance Statement

Clouds and vegetation are both important components of the climate system that interact across a range of scales. These interactions are central to understanding how changes at the land surface feedback on climate. For example, if a forest expands or recedes, diagnosing how that will impact clouds will determine whether you predict warming or cooling temperatures from that shift in the forest area. These predictions are often made with complex Earth system models, but we look to a more idealized representation of the land–atmosphere system to diagnose how shallow clouds should respond to changes in surface properties with different scenarios of boreal forest expansion at a more foundational level. This both grounds our understanding of previous analysis and provides helpful direction for future studies of this relevant and impactful land cover change.

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