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David M. Mocko, Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Shugong Wang

Abstract

This study presents an evaluation of the impact of vegetation conditions on a land surface model (LSM) simulation of agricultural drought. The Noah-MP LSM is used to simulate water and energy fluxes and states, which are transformed into drought categories using percentiles over the continental United States from 1979 to 2017. Leaf area index (LAI) observations are assimilated into the dynamic vegetation scheme of Noah-MP. A weekly operational drought monitor (the U.S. Drought Monitor) is used for the evaluation. The results show that LAI assimilation into Noah-MP’s dynamic vegetation scheme improves the model’s ability to represent drought, particularly over cropland areas. LAI assimilation improves the simulation of the drought category, detection of drought conditions, and reduces the instances of drought false alarms. The assimilation of LAI in these locations not only corrects model errors in the simulation of vegetation, but also can help to represent unmodeled physical processes such as irrigation toward improved simulation of agricultural drought.

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Lu Su, Qian Cao, Mu Xiao, David M. Mocko, Michael Barlage, Dongyue Li, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

We examine the drought variability over the conterminous United States (CONUS) for 1915–2018 using the Noah-MP land surface model. We examine different model options on drought reconstruction, including optional representation of groundwater and dynamic vegetation phenology. Over our 104-yr reconstruction period, we identify 12 great droughts that each covered at least 36% of CONUS and lasted for at least 5 months. The great droughts tend to have smaller areas when groundwater and/or dynamic vegetation are included in the model configuration. We detect a small decreasing trend in dry area coverage over CONUS in all configurations. We identify 45 major droughts in the baseline (with a dry area coverage greater than 23.6% of CONUS) that are, on average, somewhat less severe than great droughts. We find that representation of groundwater tends to increase drought duration for both great and major droughts, primarily by leading to earlier drought onset (some due to short-lived recovery from a previous drought) or later demise (groundwater anomalies lag precipitation anomalies). In contrast, representation of dynamic vegetation tends to shorten major droughts duration, primarily due to earlier drought demise (closed stoma or dead vegetation reduces ET loss during droughts). On a regional basis, the U.S. Southwest (Southeast) has the longest (shortest) major drought durations. Consistent with earlier work, dry area coverage in all subregions except the Southwest has decreased. The effects of groundwater and dynamic vegetation vary regionally due to differences in groundwater depths (hence connectivity with the surface) and vegetation types.

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Wen-Ying Wu, Zong-Liang Yang, and Michael Barlage

Abstract

Texas is subject to severe droughts, including the record-breaking one in 2011. To investigate the critical hydrometeorological processes during drought, we use a land surface model, Noah-MP, to simulate water availability and investigate the causes of the record drought. We conduct a series of experiments with runoff schemes, vegetation phenology, and plant rooting depth. Observation-based terrestrial water storage, evapotranspiration, runoff, and leaf area index are used to compare with results from the model. Overall, the results suggest that using different parameterizations can influence the modeled water availability, especially during drought. The drought-induced vegetation responses not only interact with water availability but also affect the ground temperature. Our evaluation shows that Noah-MP with a groundwater scheme produces a better temporal relationship in terrestrial water storage compared with observations. Leaf area index from dynamic vegetation is better simulated in wet years than dry years. Reduction of positive biases in runoff and reduction of negative biases in evapotranspiration are found in simulations with groundwater, dynamic vegetation, and deeper rooting zone depth. Multiparameterization experiments show the uncertainties of drought monitoring and provide a mechanistic understanding of disparities in dry anomalies.

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Christa D. Peters-Lidard, David M. Mocko, Lu Su, Dennis P. Lettenmaier, Pierre Gentine, and Michael Barlage

Abstract

Millions of people across the globe are affected by droughts every year, and recent droughts have highlighted the considerable agricultural impacts and economic costs of these events. Monitoring the state of droughts depends on integrating multiple indicators that each capture particular aspects of hydrologic impact and various types and phases of drought. As the capabilities of land-surface models and remote sensing have improved, important physical processes such as dynamic, interactive vegetation phenology, groundwater, and snow pack evolution now support a range of drought indicators that better reflect coupled water, energy and carbon cycle processes. In this work, we discuss these advances, including newer classes of indicators that can be applied to improve the characterization of drought onset, severity and duration. We utilize a new model-based drought reconstruction to illustrate the role of dynamic phenology and groundwater in drought assessment. Further, through case studies on flash droughts, snow droughts, and drought recovery, we illustrate the potential advantages of advanced model physics and observational capabilities, especially from remote sensing, in characterizing droughts.

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Yaling Liu, Dongdong Chen, Soukayna Mouatadid, Xiaoliang Lu, Min Chen, Yu Cheng, Zhenghui Xie, Binghao Jia, Huan Wu, and Pierre Gentine

Abstract

Soil moisture (SM) links the water and energy cycles over the land–atmosphere interface and largely determines ecosystem functionality, positioning it as an essential player in the Earth system. Despite its importance, accurate estimation of large-scale SM remains a challenge. Here we leverage the strength of neural network (NN) and fidelity of long-term measurements to develop a daily multilayer cropland SM dataset for China from 1981 to 2013, implemented for a range of different cropping patterns. The training and testing of the NN for the five soil layers (0–50 cm, 10-cm depth each) yield R 2 values of 0.65–0.70 and 0.64–0.69, respectively. Our analysis reveals that precipitation and soil properties are the two dominant factors determining SM, but cropping pattern is also crucial. In addition, our simulations of alternative cropping patterns indicate that winter wheat followed by fallow will largely alleviate the SM depletion in most parts of China. On the other hand, cropping patterns of fallow in the winter followed by maize/soybean seem to further aggravate SM decline in the Huang-Huai-Hai region and southwestern China, relative to prevalent practices of double cropping. This may be due to their low soil porosity, which results in more soil water drainage, as opposed to the case that winter crop roots help maintain SM. This multilayer cropland SM dataset with granularity of cropping patterns provides an important alternative and is complementary to modeled and satellite-retrieved products.

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Yizhou Zhuang, Amir Erfanian, and Rong Fu

Abstract

Although the influence of sea surface temperature (SST) forcing and large-scale teleconnection on summer droughts over the U.S. Great Plains has been suggested for decades, the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Here we show a significant correlation between low-level moisture condition over the U.S. Southwest in spring and rainfall variability over the Great Plains in summer. Such a connection is due to the strong influence of the Southwest dryness on the zonal moisture advection to the Great Plains from spring to summer. This advection is an important contributor for the moisture deficit during spring to early summer, and so can initiate warm season drought over the Great Plains. In other words, the well-documented influence of cold season Pacific SST on the Southwest rainfall in spring, and the influence of the latter on the zonal moisture advection to the Great Plains from spring to summer, allows the Pacific climate variability in winter and spring to explain over 35% of the variance of the summer precipitation over the Great Plains, more than that can be explained by the previous documented west Pacific–North America (WPNA) teleconnection forced by tropical Pacific SST in early summer. Thus, this remote land surface feedback due to the Southwest dryness can potentially improve the predictability of summer precipitation and drought onsets over the Great Plains.

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Chul-Su Shin, Bohua Huang, Paul A. Dirmeyer, Subhadeep Halder, and Arun Kumar

Abstract

In addition to remote SST forcing, realistic representation of land forcing (i.e., soil moisture) over the United States is critical for a prediction of U.S. severe drought events approximately one season in advance. Using “identical twin” experiments with different land initial conditions (ICs) in the 32-yr (1979–2010) CFSv2 reforecasts (NASA GLDAS-2 reanalysis versus NCEP CFSR), sensitivity and skill of U.S. drought predictions to land ICs are evaluated. Although there is no outstanding performer between the two sets of forecasts with different land ICs, each set shows greater skill in some regions, but their locations vary with forecast lead time and season. The 1999 case study demonstrates that although a pattern of below-normal SSTs in the Pacific in the fall and winter is realistically reproduced in both reforecasts, GLDAS-2 land initial states display a stronger east–west gradient of soil moisture, particularly drier in the eastern United States and more consistent with observations, leading to warmer surface temperature anomalies over the United States. Anomalies lasting for one season are accompanied by more persistent barotropic (warm core) anomalous high pressure over CONUS, which results in better prediction skill of this drought case up to 4 months in advance in the reforecasts with GLDAS-2 land ICs. Therefore, it is essential to minimize the uncertainty of land initial states among the current land analyses for improving U.S. drought prediction on seasonal time scales.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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