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Keyhan Gavahi, Peyman Abbaszadeh, Hamid Moradkhani, Xiwu Zhan, and Christopher Hain

Abstract

Soil moisture (SM) and evapotranspiration (ET) are key variables of the terrestrial water cycle with a strong relationship. This study examines remotely sensed soil moisture and evapotranspiration data assimilation (DA) with the aim of improving drought monitoring. Although numerous efforts have gone into assimilating satellite soil moisture observations into land surface models to improve their predictive skills, little attention has been given to the combined use of soil moisture and evapotranspiration to better characterize hydrologic fluxes. In this study, we assimilate two remotely sensed datasets, namely, Soil Moisture Operational Product System (SMOPS) and MODIS evapotranspiration (MODIS16 ET), at 1-km spatial resolution, into the VIC land surface model by means of an evolutionary particle filter method. To achieve this, a fully parallelized framework based on model and domain decomposition using a parallel divide-and-conquer algorithm was implemented. The findings show improvement in soil moisture predictions by multivariate assimilation of both ET and SM as compared to univariate scenarios. In addition, monthly and weekly drought maps are produced using the updated root-zone soil moisture percentiles over the Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint basin in the southeastern United States. The model-based estimates are then compared against the corresponding U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) archive maps. The results are consistent with the USDM maps during the winter and spring season considering the drought extents; however, the drought severity was found to be slightly higher according to DA method. Comparing different assimilation scenarios showed that ET assimilation results in wetter conditions comparing to open-loop and univariate SM DA. The multivariate DA then combines the effects of the two variables and provides an in-between condition.

Open access
Richard Seager, Jennifer Nakamura, and Mingfang Ting

Abstract

The predictability on the seasonal time scale of meteorological drought onsets and terminations over the southern Great Plains is examined within the North American Multimodel Ensemble. The drought onsets and terminations were those identified based on soil moisture transitions in land data assimilation systems and shown to be driven by precipitation anomalies. Sea surface temperature (SST) forcing explains about a quarter of variance of seasonal mean precipitation in the region. However, at lead times of a season, forecast SSTs only explain about 10% of seasonal mean precipitation variance. For the three identified drought onsets, fall 2010 is confidently predicted and spring 2012 is predicted with some skill, and fall 2005 was not predicted at all. None of the drought terminations were predicted on the seasonal time scale. Predictability of drought onset arises from La Niña–like conditions, but there is no indication that El Niño conditions lead to drought terminations in the southern Great Plains. Spring 2012 and fall 2000 are further examined. The limited predictability of onset in spring 2012 arises from cool tropical Pacific SSTs, but internal atmospheric variability played a very important role. Drought termination in fall 2000 was predicted at the 1-month time scale but not at the seasonal time scale, likely because of failure to predict warm SST anomalies directly east of subtropical Asia. The work suggests that improved SST prediction offers some potential for improved prediction of both drought onsets and terminations in the southern Great Plains, but that many onsets and terminations will not be predictable even a season in advance.

Free access
Shanshui Yuan, Steven M. Quiring, and Chen Zhao

Abstract

There are a variety of metrics that are used to monitor drought conditions, including soil moisture and drought indices. This study examines the relationship between in situ soil moisture, NLDAS-2 soil moisture, and four drought indices: the standardized precipitation index, the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index, the crop moisture index, and the Palmer Z index. We evaluate how well drought indices and the modeled soil moisture represent the intensity, variability, and persistence of the observed soil moisture in the southern Great Plains. We also apply the drought indices to evaluate land–atmosphere interactions and compare the results with soil moisture. The results show that the SPI, SPEI, and Z index have higher correlations with 0–10-cm soil moisture, while the CMI is more strongly correlated with 0–100-cm soil moisture. All the drought indices tend to overestimate the area affected by moderate to extreme drought conditions. Significant drying trends from 2003 to 2017 are evident in SPEI, Z index, and CMI, and they agree with those in the observed soil moisture. The CMI captures the intra- and interannual variability of 0–100-cm soil moisture better than the other drought indices. The persistence of CMI is longer than that of 0–10-cm soil moisture and shorter than that of 0–100-cm soil moisture. Model-derived soil moisture does not outperform the CMI in the 0–100-cm soil layer. The Z index and CMI are better drought indices to use as a proxy for soil moisture when examining land–atmosphere interactions while the SPI is not recommended. Soil type and climate affect the relationship between drought indices and observed soil moisture.

Free access
Kingtse C. Mo and Dennis P Lettenmaier

Abstract

We examine reforecasts of flash droughts over the United States for the late spring (April–May), midsummer (June–July), and late summer/early autumn (August–September) with lead times up to 3 pentads based on the NOAA second-generation Global Ensemble Forecast System reforecasts version 2 (GEFSv2). We consider forecasts of both heat wave and precipitation deficit (P deficit) flash droughts, where heat wave flash droughts are characterized by high temperature and depletion of soil moisture and P deficit flash droughts are caused by lack of precipitation that leads to (rather than being the cause of) high temperature. We find that the GEFSv2 reforecasts generally capture the frequency of occurrence (FOC) patterns. The equitable threat score (ETS) of heat wave flash drought forecasts for late spring in the regions where heat wave flash droughts are most likely to occur over the north-central and Pacific Northwest regions is statistically significant up to 2 pentads. The GEFSv2 reforecasts capture the basic pattern of the FOC of P-deficit flash droughts and also are skillful up to lead about 2 pentads. However, the reforecasts overestimate the P-deficit flash drought FOC over parts of the Southwest in late spring, leading to large false alarm rates. For autumn, the reforecasts underestimate P-deficit flash drought occurrence over California and Nevada. The GEFSv2 reforecasts are able to capture the approximately linear relationship between evaporation and soil moisture, but the lack of skill in precipitation forecasts limits the skill of P-deficit flash drought forecasts.

Free access