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Lily N. Zhang
,
Daniel J. Short Gianotti
, and
Dara Entekhabi

Abstract

Changes in surface water and energy balance can influence weather through interactions between the land and lower atmosphere. In convecting atmospheres, increases in convective available potential energy (CAPE) at the base of the column are driven by surface turbulent fluxes and can lead to precipitation. Using two global satellite datasets, we analyze the impact of surface energy balance partitioning on convective development by tracking CAPE over soil moisture drydowns (interstorms) during the summer, when land–atmosphere coupling is strongest. Our results show that the sign and magnitude of CAPE development during summertime drydowns depends on regional hydroclimate and initial soil moisture content. On average, CAPE increases between precipitation events over humid regions (e.g., the eastern United States) and decreases slightly over arid regions (e.g., the western United States). The soil moisture content at the start of a drydown was found to only impact CAPE evolution over arid regions, leading to greater decreases in CAPE when initial soil moisture content was high. The effect of these factors on CAPE can be explained by their influence principally on surface evaporation, demonstrating the importance of evaporative controls on CAPE and providing a basis for understanding the soil moisture–precipitation relationship, as well as land–atmosphere interaction as a whole.

Significance Statement

Land–atmosphere coupling is a long-standing topic with growing interest within the climate and modeling communities. Understanding and characterizing the feedbacks between the land surface and lower atmosphere has important implications for weather and climate prediction. One component of land–atmosphere coupling not yet fully understood is the soil moisture–precipitation relationship. Our work quantifies the land influence on one pathway for precipitation, convection, by tracking the evolution of atmospheric convective energy as soils dry between storms. Using global satellite observations, we find clear spatial and temporal trends that link summertime convective development to soil moisture content and evaporation. Our observational results provide a benchmark for evaluating how well weather and climate models capture the complex coupling between land and atmosphere.

Open access
Yue Sun
and
Haishan Chen

Abstract

Eurasian spring snowmelt plays an important role in the subsequent climate and hydrological cycle, however, the understanding of snowmelt itself and its causes remains insufficient. This study explored the basic characteristics of spring snowmelt in the eastern Europe–western Siberia (EEWS) region by classifying snowmelt anomalies into two categories based on the different factors that dominate spring snowmelt, and then investigated the associated atmospheric circulation anomalies and local physical processes. The first category of anomalous snowmelt (category 1) is controlled by both the initial snow mass and the later snowmelt process, while the second category of anomalous snowmelt (category 2) is mainly linked to the later snowmelt process. Specifically, category 1 is characterized by an anomalous trough in EEWS in winter, where water vapor transported and converged, accompanied by anomalous upward motion, which promotes snowfall and snow accumulation, providing initial conditions conducive to snowmelt. In April, this region is controlled by an anomalous ridge, with significant warm advection anomalies and subsidence promoting surface warming, thereby accelerating snow melting. In contrast, the winter circulation anomalies are insignificant in category 2, while the anomalous ridge in April is stronger than in category 1, accompanied by more intense snowmelt processes. In addition, from the surface energy balance perspective, atmospheric downward sensible heat transport is an important factor influencing the anomalous snowmelt in category 1, while shortwave radiation plays a secondary role. Conversely, the snowmelt in category 2 is dominated by shortwave radiation forcing, but the sensible heat effect is slightly weaker.

Significance Statement

Eurasian spring snowmelt significantly impacts the subsequent climate and hydrological cycle, but the understanding of snowmelt itself and its causes is still inadequate. The purpose of this study is to explore the monthly evolution of atmospheric circulation associated with anomalous snowmelt and its local physical processes associated by categorizing them based on snowmelt characteristics. Category 1 is jointly affected by winter snow accumulation and later warming, while category 2 is dominated by strong snowmelt process in late spring. These two categories are accompanied by different winter and spring circulation configurations. Our results provide a basis for further investigation of snowmelt precursor signals.

Open access
Mina Faghih
and
François Brissette

Abstract

This work explores the relationship between catchment size, rainfall duration, and future streamflow increases on 133 North American catchments with sizes ranging from 66.5 to 9886 km2. It uses the outputs from a high spatial (0.11°) and temporal (1-h) resolution single model initial-condition large ensemble (SMILE) and a hydrological model to compute extreme rainfall and streamflow for durations ranging from 1 to 72 h and for return periods of between 2 and 300 years. Increases in extreme precipitation are observed across all durations and return periods. The projected increases are strongly related to duration, frequency, and catchment size, with the shortest durations, longest return periods, and smaller catchments witnessing the largest relative rainfall increases. These increases can be quite significant, with the 100-yr rainfall becoming up to 20 times more frequent over the smaller catchments. A similar duration–frequency–size pattern of increases is also observed for future extreme streamflow, but with even larger relative increases. These results imply that future increases in extreme rainfall will disproportionately impact smaller catchments, and particularly so for impervious urban catchments which are typically small, and whose stormwater drainage infrastructures are designed for long-return-period flows, both being conditions for which the amplification of future flow will be maximized.

Open access
William Ryan Currier
,
Andrew W. Wood
,
Naoki Mizukami
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Joseph J. Hamman
, and
Ethan D. Gutmann

Abstract

Vegetation parameters for the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model were recently updated using observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Previous work showed that these MODIS-based parameters improved VIC evapotranspiration simulations when compared to eddy covariance observations. Due to the importance of evapotranspiration within the Colorado River basin, this study provided a basin-by-basin calibration of VIC soil parameters with updated MODIS-based vegetation parameters to improve streamflow simulations. Interestingly, while both configurations had similar historic streamflow performance, end-of-century hydrologic projections, driven by 29 downscaled global climate models under the RCP8.5 emissions scenario, differed between the two configurations. The calibrated MODIS-based configuration had an ensemble mean that simulated little change in end-of-century annual streamflow volume (+0.4%) at Lees Ferry, Arizona, relative to the historical period (1960–2005). In contrast, the previous VIC configuration, which is used to inform decisions about future water resources in the Colorado River basin, projected an 11.7% decrease in annual streamflow. Both VIC configurations simulated similar amounts of evapotranspiration in the historical period. However, the MODIS-based VIC configuration did not show as much of an increase in evapotranspiration by the end of the century, primarily within the upper basin’s forested areas. Differences in evapotranspiration projections were the result of the MODIS-based vegetation parameters having lower leaf area index values and less forested area compared to previous vegetation estimates used in recent Colorado River basin hydrologic projections. These results highlight the need to accurately characterize vegetation and better constrain climate sensitivities in hydrologic models.

Significance Statement

Understanding systemic changes in annual Colorado River basin flows is critical for managing long-term reservoir levels. Single-digit percentage decreases have the potential to degrade the regions’ water supply, hydropower generation, and environmental concerns. Hydrology projections under climate change have largely been based on simulations from the Variable Infiltration Capacity model. Updating the model’s vegetation representation based on updated satellite information highlighted the sensitivity of the hydrologic projections to the models’ vegetation representation primarily within forested areas. This updated model did not increase in evapotranspiration by the end of the century as much as previous simulations. This increased the mean and ensemble spread of the projected streamflow changes, emphasizing the need to properly characterize the hydrologic model’s vegetation parameters and better constrain model climate sensitivity.

Open access
Ruud T. W. L. Hurkmans
,
Bart van den Hurk
,
Maurice Schmeits
,
Fredrik Wetterhall
, and
Ilias G. Pechlivanidis

Abstract

For efficient management of the Dutch surface water reservoir Lake IJssel, (sub)seasonal forecasts of the water volumes going in and out of the reservoir are potentially of great interest. Here, streamflow forecasts were analyzed for the river Rhine at Lobith, which is partly routed through the river IJssel, the main influx into the reservoir. We analyzed seasonal forecast datasets derived from the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) European Hydrological Predictions for the Environment (E-HYPE), and Hydrology Tiled ECMWF Scheme of Surface Exchanges over Land (HTESSEL), which differ in their underlying hydrological formulation, but are all forced by meteorological forecasts from ECMWF’s fifth generation seasonal forecast system (SEAS5). We postprocessed the streamflow forecasts using quantile mapping (QM) and analyzed several forecast quality metrics. Forecast performance was assessed based on the available reforecast period, as well as on individual summer seasons. QM increased forecast skill for nearly all metrics evaluated. Averaged over the reforecast period, forecasts were skillful for up to 4 months in spring and early summer. Later in summer the skillful period deteriorated to 1–2 months. When investigating specific years with either low- or high-flow conditions, forecast skill increased with the extremity of the event. Although raw forecasts for both E-HYPE and EFAS were more skillful than HTESSEL, bias correction based on QM can significantly reduce the difference. In operational mode, the three forecast systems show comparable skill. In general, dry conditions can be forecasted with high success rates up to 3 months ahead, which is very promising for successful use of Rhine streamflow forecasts in downstream reservoir management.

Significance Statement

Lake IJssel is the Netherlands’ largest freshwater reservoir, with its main water source coming from a branch of the river Rhine. We investigate whether seasonal forecasts of river discharge can help in managing the lake level to create extra buffer capacity for dry periods. We compare three seasonal forecast systems and assess their quality. We find that statistical corrections are needed for all systems to be used. In spring discharge can be predicted up to 4 months ahead due to snow processes. In summer this time is shorter, but it increases with event extremity: severe low-flow events can be predicted longer ahead. This offers potential for water managers to base their lake management on other similar reservoirs.

Open access
Zdenko Heyvaert
,
Samuel Scherrer
,
Michel Bechtold
,
Alexander Gruber
,
Wouter Dorigo
,
Sujay Kumar
, and
Gabriëlle De Lannoy

Abstract

In this study, soil moisture retrievals of the combined active–passive ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) soil moisture product are assimilated into the Noah-MP land surface model over Europe using a one-dimensional ensemble Kalman filter and an 18-yr study period. The performance of the data assimilation (DA) system is evaluated by comparing it with a model-only experiment (at in situ sites) and by assessing statistics of innovations and increments as DA diagnostics (over the entire domain). For both assessments, we explore the impact of three design choices, resulting in the following insights. 1) The magnitude of the assumed observation errors strongly affects the skill improvements evaluated against in situ stations and internal diagnostics. 2) Choosing between climatological or monthly cumulative distribution function matching as the observation bias correction method only has a marginal effect on the in situ skill of the DA system. However, the internal diagnostics suggest a more robust system parameterization if the observations are rescaled monthly. 3) The choice of atmospheric reanalysis dataset to force the land surface model affects the model-only skill and the DA skill improvements. The model-only skill is higher with input from the MERRA-2 than with input from the ERA5 reanalysis, resulting in larger DA skill improvements for the latter. Additionally, we show that the added value of the DA strongly depends on the quality of the satellite retrievals and land cover, with the most substantial soil moisture skill improvements occurring over croplands and skill degradation occurring over densely forested areas.

Open access
Yisu Jia
,
Robert Lund
,
Jiajie Kong
,
Jamie Dyer
,
Jonathan Woody
, and
J. S. Marron

Abstract

This paper develops a mathematical model and statistical methods to quantify trends in presence/absence observations of snow cover (not depths) and applies these in an analysis of Northern Hemispheric observations extracted from satellite flyovers during 1967–2021. A two-state Markov chain model with periodic dynamics is introduced to analyze changes in the data in a cell by cell fashion. Trends, converted to the number of weeks of snow cover lost/gained per century, are estimated for each study cell. Uncertainty margins for these trends are developed from the model and used to assess the significance of the trend estimates. Cells with questionable data quality are explicitly identified. Among trustworthy cells, snow presence is seen to be declining in almost twice as many cells as it is advancing. While Arctic and southern latitude snow presence is found to be rapidly receding, other locations, such as eastern Canada, are experiencing advancing snow cover.

Significance Statement

This project quantifies how the Northern Hemisphere’s snow cover has recently changed. Snow cover plays a critical role in the global energy balance due to its high albedo and insulating characteristics and is therefore a prominent indicator of climate change. On a regional scale, the spatial consistency of snow cover influences surface temperatures via variations in absorbed solar radiation, while continental-scale snow cover acts to maintain thermal stability in the Arctic and subarctic regions, leading to spatial and temporal impacts on global circulation patterns. Changing snow presence in Arctic regions could influence large-scale releases of carbon and methane gas. Given the importance of snow cover, understanding its trends enhances our understanding of climate change.

Open access
Bo Zhao
,
David Hudak
,
Peter Rodriguez
,
Eva Mekis
,
Dominique Brunet
,
Ellen Eckert
, and
Stella Melo

Abstract

The Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM; IMERG) is a high-resolution gridded precipitation dataset widely used around the world. This study assessed the performance of the half-hourly IMERG v06 Early and Final Runs over a 5-yr period versus 19 high-quality surface stations in the Great Lakes region of North America. This assessment not only looked at precipitation occurrence and amount, but also studied the IMERG Quality Index (QI) and errors related to passive microwave (PMW) sources. Analysis of bias in accumulated precipitation amount and precipitation occurrence statistics suggests that IMERG presents various uncertainties with respect to time scale, meteorological season, PMW source, QI, and land surface type. Results indicate that 1) the cold season’s (November–April) larger relative bias can be mitigated via backward morphing; 2) IMERG 6-h precipitation amount scored best in the warmest season (JJA) with a consistent overestimation of the frequency bias index − 1 (FBI-1); 3) the performance of five PMW sources is affected by the season to different degrees; 4) in terms of some metrics, skills do not always enhance with increasing QI; 5) local lake effects lead to higher correlation and equitable threat score (ETS) for the stations closest to the lakes. Results of this study will be beneficial to both developers and users of IMERG precipitation products.

Significance Statement

The purpose of the study was to assess the performance of the gridded precipitation product from the Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement (IMERG) version 6 over the Great Lakes region of North America. The assessment performs a statistical comparison of precipitation amounts from IMERG versus surface stations as a function of time scale, season, precipitation event threshold, and input source among satellites. Interpretation of the results identifies shortcomings in the IMERG algorithms, particularly in extreme precipitation events and over ice-covered surfaces. The results also describe spatial variability in the IMERG data quality due to the complex geography of the study area and offer a clear threshold in the Quality Index (QI) flag for optimal application of the precipitation products.

Open access
David W. Pierce
,
Daniel R. Cayan
,
Daniel R. Feldman
, and
Mark D. Risser

Abstract

A new set of CMIP6 data downscaled using the localized constructed analogs (LOCA) statistical method has been produced, covering central Mexico through southern Canada at 6-km resolution. Output from 27 CMIP6 Earth system models is included, with up to 10 ensemble members per model and 3 SSPs (245, 370, and 585). Improvements from the previous CMIP5 downscaled data result in higher daily precipitation extremes, which have significant societal and economic implications. The improvements are accomplished by using a precipitation training dataset that better represents daily extremes and by implementing an ensemble bias correction that allows a more realistic representation of extreme high daily precipitation values in models with numerous ensemble members. Over southern Canada and the CONUS exclusive of Arizona (AZ) and New Mexico (NM), seasonal increases in daily precipitation extremes are largest in winter (∼25% in SSP370). Over Mexico, AZ, and NM, seasonal increases are largest in autumn (∼15%). Summer is the outlier season, with low model agreement except in New England and little changes in 5-yr return values, but substantial increases in the CONUS and Canada in the 500-yr return value. One-in-100-yr historical daily precipitation events become substantially more frequent in the future, as often as once in 30–40 years in the southeastern United States and Pacific Northwest by the end of the century under SSP 370. Impacts of the higher precipitation extremes in the LOCA version 2 downscaled CMIP6 product relative to the LOCA downscaled CMIP5 product, even for similar anthropogenic emissions, may need to be considered by end-users.

Free access
Erica F. De Biasio
and
Konstantine P. Georgakakos

Abstract

The enhancement of precipitation over the mountain regions of Southern California, in conjunction with mesoscale and synoptic-scale forcings, can result in high-intensity, short-duration extreme precipitation events (EPEs) that are often associated with hazardous impacts. In this study, candidate upstream atmospheric precursors at relevant spatiotemporal scales to such hazards are explored using a WRF mesoscale model with 5-km grid spacing and an hourly temporal resolution. This high-resolution model, once validated against observations, is used to discern statistically significant physics-based signals between hypothetical mesoscale forcings and the modeled precipitation response. Specifically, the role of upstream instability in modeled EPEs is indexed by convective available potential energy (CAPE) and is examined for two mountainous regions of Southern California at several lag times. A Monte Carlo approach reveals statistically significant differences between the relationship of CAPE associated with EPEs in comparison to the analogous relationship for any precipitation event. These findings hold even with accounting for the well-established role of favorably oriented low-level moisture flux in orographic precipitation. This could indicate that atmospheric instability plays a role in providing additional lifting mechanisms, in conjunction with orographic and synoptic-scale forcings, to facilitate the high short-duration precipitation intensities that have been observed in the region. This diagnostic exploratory study provides additional candidate indicators of predictability of such EPEs at higher spatiotemporal scales than previous work, based on mesoscale model physics. Further analysis should examine the identified precursors using observational data with adequate resolution.

Open access