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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.

Restricted access
Peter E. Goble
and
Russ S. Schumacher

Abstract

Annual spring and summer runoff from western Colorado is relied upon by 40 million people, six states, and two countries. Cool season precipitation and snowpack have historically been robust predictors of seasonal runoff in western Colorado. Forecasts made with this information allow water managers to plan for the season ahead. Antecedent hydrological conditions, such as root zone soil moisture and groundwater storage, and weather conditions following peak snowpack also impact seasonal runoff. The roles of such factors were scrutinized in 2020 and 2021: seasonal runoff was much lower than expectations based on snowpack values alone. We investigate the relative importance of meteorological and hydrological conditions occurring before and after the snowpack season in predicting seasonal runoff in western Colorado. This question is critical because the most effective investment strategy for improving forecasts depends on if errors arise before or after the snowpack season. This study is conducted using observations from the Snow Telemetry Network, root zone soil moisture and groundwater data from the Western Land Data Assimilation Systems, and a random forest–based statistical forecasting framework. We find that on average, antecedent root zone soil moisture and groundwater storage values do not add significant skill to seasonal water supply forecasts in western Colorado. In contrast, using precipitation and temperature data after the time of peak snowpack improves water supply forecasts significantly. The 2020 and 2021 runoffs were hampered by dry conditions both before and after the snowpack season. Both antecedent soil moisture and spring/summer precipitation data improved water supply forecast accuracy in these years.

Significance Statement

Seasonal water supply forecasts in western Colorado are highly valuable because spring and summer runoff from this region helps support the water supply of 40 million people. Accurate forecasts improve the management of the region’s water. Heavy investments have been made in improving our ability to monitor antecedent hydrological conditions in western Colorado, such as root zone soil moisture and groundwater. However, results from this study indicate that the largest source of uncertainty in western Colorado runoff forecasts is future weather. Therefore, improved subseasonal-to-seasonal weather forecasts for western Colorado are what is most needed to improve regional water supply forecasts, and the ability to properly manage western Colorado water.

Open access
Zhi-Weng Chua
,
Yuriy Kuleshov
,
Andrew B. Watkins
,
Suelynn Choy
, and
Chayn Sun

Abstract

Satellites provide a useful way of estimating rainfall where the availability of in situ data is low but their indirect nature of estimation means there can be substantial biases. Consequently, the assimilation of in situ data is an important step in improving the accuracy of the satellite rainfall analysis. The effectiveness of this step varies with gauge density, and this study investigated the effectiveness of statistical interpolation (SI), also known as optimal interpolation (OI), on a monthly time scale when gauge density is extremely low using Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a study region. The topography of the region presented an additional challenge to the algorithm. An open-source implementation of SI was developed on Python 3 and confirmed to be consistent with an existing implementation, addressing a lack of open-source implementation for this classical algorithm. The effectiveness of the analysis produced by this algorithm was then compared to the pure satellite analysis over PNG from 2001 to 2014. When performance over the entire study domain was considered, the improvement from using SI was close to imperceptible because of the small number of stations available for assimilation and the small radius of influence of each station (imposed by the topography present in the domain). However, there was still value in using OI as performance around each of the stations was noticeably improved, with the error consistently being reduced along with a general increase in the correlation metric. Furthermore, in an operational context, the use of OI provides an important function of ensuring consistency between in situ data and the gridded analysis.

Significance Statement

The blending of satellite and gauge rainfall data through a process known as statistical interpolation (SI) is known to be capable of producing a more accurate dataset that facilitates better estimation of rainfall. However, the performance of this algorithm over a domain such as Papua New Guinea, where gauge density is extremely low, is not often explored. This study reveals that, although an improvement over the entire Papua New Guinea domain was slight, the algorithm is still valuable as there was a consistent improvement around the stations. Additionally, an adaptable and open-source version of the algorithm is provided, allowing users to blend their own satellite and gauge data and create better geospatial datasets for their own purposes.

Open access
Chak-Hau Michael Tso
,
Eleanor Blyth
,
Maliko Tanguy
,
Peter E. Levy
,
Emma L. Robinson
,
Victoria Bell
,
Yuanyuan Zha
, and
Matthew Fry

Abstract

The persistence or memory of soil moisture (θ) after rainfall has substantial environmental implications. Much work has been done to study soil moisture drydown for in situ and satellite data separately. In this work, we present a comparison of drydown characteristics across multiple U.K. soil moisture products, including satellite-merged (i.e., TCM), in situ (i.e., COSMOS-UK), hydrological model [i.e., Grid-to-Grid (G2G)], statistical model [i.e., Soil Moisture U.K. (SMUK)], and land surface model (LSM) [i.e., Climate Hydrology and Ecology research Support System (CHESS)] data. The drydown decay time scale (τ) for all gridded products is computed at an unprecedented resolution of 1–2 km, a scale relevant to weather and climate models. While their range of τ differs (except SMUK and CHESS are similar) due to differences such as sensing depths, their spatial patterns are correlated to land cover and soil types. We further analyze the occurrence of drydown events at COSMOS-UK sites. We show that soil moisture drydown regimes exhibit strong seasonal dependencies, whereby the soil dries out quicker in summer than winter. These seasonal dependencies are important to consider during model benchmarking and evaluation. We show that fitted τ based on COSMOS and LSM are well correlated, with a bias of lower τ for COSMOS. Our findings contribute to a growing body of literature to characterize τ, with the aim of developing a method to systematically validate model soil moisture products at a range of scales.

Significance Statement

While important for many aspects of the environment, the evaluation of modeled soil moisture has remained incredibly challenging. Sensors work at different space and time scales to the models, the definitions of soil moisture vary between applications, and the soil moisture itself is subject to the soil properties while the impact of the soil moisture on evaporation or river flow is more dependent on its variation in time and space than its absolute value. What we need is a method that allows us to compare the important features of soil moisture rather than its value. In this study, we choose to study drydown as a way to capture and compare the behavior of different soil moisture data products.

Open access
Malarvizhi Arulraj
,
Veljko Petkovic
,
Ralph R. Ferraro
, and
Huan Meng

Abstract

The three-dimensional (3D) structure of precipitation systems is highly dependent on hydrometeor formation processes and microphysics. This study aims to characterize distinct vertical profiles of precipitation regimes by relying on the availability of a high-quality, spatially dense radar network and its capability to observe the 3D structure of the storms. A deep-learning-based framework, coupled with unsupervised clustering methods, is developed to identify types of precipitation structures irrespective of their physical properties. A 6-month period of 3D reflectivity profiles from the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) network is used to identify different regimes and investigate their properties with respect to the underlying environmental conditions. Dominant features retrieved from radar reflectivity profiles using convolutional neural-network-based autoencoders are employed to identify similar-looking vertical structures using coupled k-means and agglomerative clustering algorithms. The k-means method identifies distinct groups, while the agglomerative clustering visualizes intercluster relationships. The framework identifies 18 clusters that can be broadly combined into five groups of varied echo-top heights. The 18 clusters demonstrate variability with respect to structural features and precipitation rate/type, implying that profiles in each group belong to a physically different precipitation regime. An independent analysis of the regime properties is conducted by matching the MRMS reflectivity profiles with environmental parameters derived from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model forecasts. The distribution of the environmental variables confirms cluster-specific feature properties, confirming the physics-based regime separation across the clusters and their dependence on the vertical structure. The identified precipitation regimes can assist in developing physics-guided retrievals and studying precipitation regimes.

Significance Statement

This study proposes a systematic model to identify precipitation profiles of distinct vertical structures and evaluate their dependence on environmental conditions. The model was developed using ground-based radar observations; however, there is potential to extend this model to reflectivity profiles from both ground- and satellite-based sensors. In addition, the identified precipitation regime clusters could be a proxy for the vertical structure of precipitation systems and assist in determining the structural variability within traditional precipitation type classification (e.g., convective versus stratiform). Moreover, identifying the precipitation regimes could also be used to improve satellite-based precipitation retrievals. Finally, a better understanding of precipitation structure would also help improve the initialization of climate models.

Restricted access
Abigail Pettett
and
Colin M. Zarzycki

Abstract

This article explores the application of thermodynamic perturbations to a historical midlatitude, wintertime, rain-on-snow flood event to evaluate how similar events may evolve under different climate forcings. In particular, we generate a hindcast of the 1996 Mid-Atlantic flood using an ensemble of 14-km variable-resolution simulations completed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s global Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM). We show that the event is skillfully reproduced over the Susquehanna River Basin (SRB) by E3SM when benchmarked against in situ observational data and high-resolution reanalyses. In addition, we perform five counterfactual experiments to simulate the flood under preindustrial conditions and four different levels of warming as projected by the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble. We find a nonlinear response in simulated surface runoff and streamflow as a function of atmospheric warming. This is attributed to changing contributions of liquid water input from a shallower initial snowpack (decreased snowmelt), increased surface temperatures and rainfall rates, and increased soil water storage. Flooding associated with this event peaks from around +1 to +2 K of global average surface warming and decreases with additional warming beyond this. There are noticeable timing shifts in peak runoff and streamflow associated with changes in the flashiness of the event. This work highlights the utility of using storyline approaches for communicating climate risk and demonstrates the potential nonlinearities associated with hydrologic extremes in areas that experience ephemeral snowpack, such as the SRB.

Restricted access
Yu-Fen Huang
,
Yinphan Tsang
, and
Alison D. Nugent

Abstract

High temporal and spatial resolution precipitation datasets are essential for hydrological and flood modeling to assist water resource management and emergency responses, particularly for small watersheds, such as those in Hawai‘i in the United States. Unfortunately, fine temporal (subdaily) and spatial (<1 km) resolutions of rainfall datasets are not always readily available for applications. Radar provides indirect measurements of the rain rate over a large spatial extent with a reasonable temporal resolution, while rain gauges provide “ground truth.” There are potential advantages to combining the two, which have not been fully explored in tropical islands. In this study, we applied kriging with external drift (KED) to integrate hourly gauge and radar rainfall into a 250 m × 250 m gridded dataset for the tropical island of O‘ahu. The results were validated with leave-one-out cross validation for 18 severe storm events, including five different storm types (e.g., tropical cyclone, cold front, upper-level trough, kona low, and a mix of upper-level trough and kona low), and different rainfall structures (e.g., stratiform and convective). KED-merged rainfall estimates outperformed both the radar-only and gauge-only datasets by 1) reducing the error from radar rainfall and 2) improving the underestimation issues from gauge rainfall, especially during convective rainfall. We confirmed the KED method can be used to merge radar with gauge data to generate reliable rainfall estimates, particularly for storm events, on mountainous tropical islands. In addition, KED rainfall estimates were consistently more accurate in depicting spatial distribution and maximum rainfall value within various storm types and rainfall structures.

Significance Statement

The results of this study show the effectiveness of utilizing kriging with external drift (KED) in merging gauge and radar rainfall data to produce highly accurate, reliable rainfall estimates in mountainous tropical regions, such as O‘ahu. The validated KED dataset, with its high temporal and spatial resolutions, offers a valuable resource for various types of rainfall-related research, particularly for extreme weather response and rainfall intensity analyses in Hawai’i. Our findings improve the accuracy of rainfall estimates and contribute to a deeper understanding of the performance of various rainfall estimation methods under different storm types and rainfall structures in a mountainous tropical setting.

Restricted access
Shibo Yao
and
Dabang Jiang

Abstract

In this study, the Flexible Particle Dispersion Model (FLEXPART) is applied to analyze the moisture sources of Northeast China precipitation from March 1979 to February 2018. The results show that there is mainly one particle aggregation channel in winter, namely the eastern Europe–Siberia–Lake Baikal–Northeast Asia channel (the western channel). In comparison with winter, there are two extra channels in summer, namely the Indochina Peninsula–South China Sea–East China channel (the southern channel) and the Philippine Sea–Ryukyu Islands channel (the southeastern channel). From the long-term mean, the Siberia–Mongolia–Xinjiang region (SMX) is the most dominant moisture source of Northeast China precipitation in all seasons. As for the moisture contribution rate of each source region to Northeast China precipitation, there is a seesaw interannual relationship between SMX and other source regions. The moisture from Central and East China is critical to the interdecadal shift of Northeast China summer precipitation. This interdecadal shift is related to the moisture transport from low latitudes to Northeast China, which is modulated by the positive phase of the Pacific decadal oscillation and the negative phase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

Restricted access
Finley M. Hay-Chapman
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

The response of boundary layer properties and cloudiness to changes in surface evaporative fraction (EF) is investigated in a single-column model to quantify the locally coupled impact of subgrid surface variations on the atmosphere during summer. Sensitive coupling days are defined when the model atmosphere exhibits large variations across a range of EFs centered on the analyzed value. Coupling sensitivity exists as both positive feedback (cloudiness increases with EF) and negative feedback (clouds increase with decreasing EF) regimes. The positive regime manifests in shallow convection situations, which are capped by a strengthened inversion and subsidence, restricting the vertical extent of convection to just above the boundary layer. Surfaces with larger EF (greater surface latent heat flux) can inject more moisture into the vertically confined system, lowering the cloud base and an increasing cloud liquid water path (LWP). Negative feedback regimes tend to manifest when large-scale deep convection, such as from mesoscale convective systems and fronts, is advected through the domain, where convection strengthens over surfaces with a lower EF (greater surface sensible heat flux). The invigoration of these systems by the land surface leads to an increase in LWP through strengthened updrafts and stronger coupling between the boundary layer and the free atmosphere. These results apply in the absence of heterogeneity-induced mesoscale circulations, providing a one-dimensional dynamical perspective on the effect of surface heterogeneity. This study provides a framework of intermediate complexity, lying between parcel theory and high-resolution coupled land–atmosphere modeling, and therefore isolates the relevant first-order processes in land–atmosphere interactions.

Significance Statement

Cloud formation, distribution, and other properties may be sensitive to heterogeneous surfaces depending on the strength and location of such heterogeneities and the background atmospheric state. This may drive differences in the cloud population depending on which part of the domain one is located. This may also lead to mesoscale circulations, which may strengthen or weaken this effect. Currently, climate models act on scales (∼100 km) that are too large to explicitly represent these processes, which are strongest at smaller scales (around 5–40 km). Therefore, subgrid-scale heterogeneity is neglected, and any predictability and model fidelity it may provide is lost. We use a simple model to diagnose sensitivity of the local atmosphere to surface variations meant to represent possible subgrid heterogeneity, providing a first-order estimate of its effect. We conclude that preferentially sensitive atmospheric states exist that lead to positive and/or negative feedback between land and atmosphere. This information is valuable to future climate model parameterizations aimed at improving the representation of these feedbacks.

Restricted access
Craig A. Ramseyer
and
Paul W. Miller

Abstract

Despite the intensifying interest in flash drought both within the United States and globally, moist tropical landscapes have largely escaped the attention of the flash drought community. Because these ecozones are acclimatized to receiving regular, near-daily precipitation, they are especially vulnerable to rapid-drying events. This is particularly true within the Caribbean Sea basin where numerous small islands lack the surface and groundwater resources to cope with swiftly developing drought conditions. This study fills the tropical flash drought gap by examining the pervasiveness of flash drought across the pan-Caribbean region using a recently proposed criterion based on the evaporative demand drought index (EDDI). The EDDI identifies 46 instances of widespread flash drought “outbreaks” in which significant fractions of the pan-Caribbean encounter rapid drying over 15 days and then maintain this condition for another 15 days. Moreover, a self-organizing maps (SOM) classification reveals a tendency for flash drought to assume recurring typologies concentrated in one of the Central American, South American, or Greater Antilles coastlines, although a simultaneous, Caribbean-wide drought is never observed within the 40-yr (1981–2020) period examined. Furthermore, three of the six flash drought typologies identified by the SOM initiate most often during Phase 2 of the Madden–Julian oscillation. Collectively, these findings motivate the need to more critically examine the transferability of flash drought definitions into the global tropics, particularly for small water-vulnerable islands where even island-wide flash droughts may only occupy a few pixels in most reanalysis datasets.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to understand if flash drought occurs in tropical environments, specifically the Caribbean. Flash droughts represent a quickly evolving drought, which have particularly acute impacts on agriculture and often catch stakeholders by surprise as conditions evolve rapidly from wet to dry conditions. Our results indicate that flash droughts occur with regular periodicity in the Caribbean. Expansive flash droughts tend to occur in coherent subregional clusters. Future studies will further investigate the drivers of these flash droughts to create early warning systems for flash drought.

Open access