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Marco L. Carrera, Stéphane Bélair, and Bernard Bilodeau

Abstract

The Canadian Land Data Assimilation System (CaLDAS) has been developed at the Meteorological Research Division of Environment Canada (EC) to better represent the land surface initial states in environmental prediction and assimilation systems. CaLDAS is built around an external land surface modeling system and uses the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) methodology. A unique feature of CaLDAS is the use of improved precipitation forcing through the assimilation of precipitation observations. An ensemble of precipitation analyses is generated by combining numerical weather prediction (NWP) model precipitation forecasts with precipitation observations. Spatial phasing errors to the NWP first-guess precipitation forecasts are more effective than perturbations to the precipitation observations in decreasing (increasing) the exceedance ratio (uncertainty ratio) scores and generating flatter, more reliable ranked histograms. CaLDAS has been configured to assimilate L-band microwave brightness temperature TB by coupling the land surface model with a microwave radiative transfer model. A continental-scale synthetic experiment assimilating passive L-band TBs for an entire warm season is performed over North America. Ensemble metric scores are used to quantify the impact of different atmospheric forcing uncertainties on soil moisture and TB ensemble spread. The use of an ensemble of precipitation analyses, generated by assimilating precipitation observations, as forcing combined with the assimilation of L-band TBs gave rise to the largest improvements in superficial soil moisture scores and to a more rapid reduction of the root-zone soil moisture errors. Innovation diagnostics show that the EnKF is able to maintain a sufficient forecast error spread through time, while soil moisture estimation error improvements with increasing ensemble size were limited.

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Husayn El Sharif, Jingfeng Wang, and Aris P. Georgakakos

Abstract

Agricultural models, such as the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer cropping system model (DSSAT-CSM), have been developed for predicting crop yield at field and regional scales and to provide useful information for water resources management. A potentially valuable input to agricultural models is soil moisture. Presently, no observations of soil moisture exist covering the entire United States at adequate time (daily) and space (~10 km or less) resolutions desired for crop yield assessments. Data products from NASA’s upcoming Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will fill the gap. The objective of this study is to demonstrate the usefulness of the SMAP soil moisture data in modeling and forecasting crop yields and irrigation amount. A simple, efficient data assimilation algorithm is presented in which the agricultural crop model DSSAT-CSM is constrained to produce modeled crop yield and irrigation amounts that are consistent with SMAP-type data. Numerical experiments demonstrate that incorporating the SMAP data into the agricultural model provides an added benefit of reducing the uncertainty of modeled crop yields when the weather input data to the crop model are subject to large uncertainty.

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Amy McNally, Gregory J. Husak, Molly Brown, Mark Carroll, Chris Funk, Soni Yatheendradas, Kristi Arsenault, Christa Peters-Lidard, and James P. Verdin

Abstract

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will provide soil moisture data with unprecedented accuracy, resolution, and coverage, enabling models to better track agricultural drought and estimate yields. In turn, this information can be used to shape policy related to food and water from commodity markets to humanitarian relief efforts. New data alone, however, do not translate to improvements in drought and yield forecasts. New tools will be needed to transform SMAP data into agriculturally meaningful products. The objective of this study is to evaluate the possibility and efficiency of replacing the rainfall-derived soil moisture component of a crop water stress index with SMAP data. The approach is demonstrated with 0.1°-resolution, ~10-day microwave soil moisture from the European Space Agency and simulated soil moisture from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network Land Data Assimilation System. Over a West Africa domain, the approach is evaluated by comparing the different soil moisture estimates and their resulting Water Requirement Satisfaction Index values from 2000 to 2010. This study highlights how the ensemble of indices performs during wet versus dry years, over different land-cover types, and the correlation with national-level millet yields. The new approach is a feasible and useful way to quantitatively assess how satellite-derived rainfall and soil moisture track agricultural water deficits. Given the importance of soil moisture in many applications, ranging from agriculture to public health to fire, this study should inspire other modeling communities to reformulate existing tools to take advantage of SMAP data.

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M. Susan Moran, Bradley Doorn, Vanessa Escobar, and Molly E. Brown

Abstract

The National Research Council (NRC) recently highlighted the dual role of NASA to support both science and applications in planning Earth observations. This article reports the efforts of the NASA Applied Sciences Program and NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to integrate applications with science and engineering in prelaunch planning. The SMAP Early Adopter program supported the prelaunch applied research that comprises the SMAP Special Collection of the Journal of Hydrometeorology. This research, in turn, has resulted in unprecedented prelaunch preparation for SMAP applications and critical feedback to the mission to improve product specifications and distribution for postlaunch applications. These efforts have been a learning experience that should provide direction for upcoming missions and set some context for the next NRC decadal survey.

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John D. Hottenstein, Guillermo E. Ponce-Campos, Julio Moguel-Yanes, and M. Susan Moran

Abstract

Intra-annual precipitation patterns are expected to shift toward more intense storms and longer dry periods because of changes in climate within future decades. Using satellite-derived estimates of plant growth combined with in situ measurements of precipitation and soil moisture between 1999 and 2013, this study quantified the relationship between intra-annual precipitation patterns, annual average soil moisture (at 5-cm depth), and plant growth at nine grassland sites across the southern United States. Results showed a fundamental difference in the response to varying precipitation patterns between mesic and semiarid grasslands. Surface soil moisture in mesic grasslands decreased with an increase of high-intensity storms, whereas in semiarid grasslands, soil moisture decreased with longer dry periods. For these sites, annual average soil moisture was a better indicator of grassland production than total annual precipitation. This improved ability to predict variability in soil moisture and plant growth with changing hydroclimatic conditions will result in more efficient resource management and better-informed policy decisions.

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Susan Frankenstein, Maria Stevens, and Constance Scott

Abstract

This paper uses simulated SMAP level-3 (L3) soil moisture data to calculate soil strength directly and compares the results against the current Noah Land Information System–based climatology approach. Based on the availability of data, three sites were chosen for the study: Cheorwon, South Korea; Laboue, Lebanon; and Asham, Nigeria. The simulated SMAP satellite data are representative of May conditions. For all three regions, this is best represented by the “average” soil moisture used in the current climatology approach. The cumulative distribution frequency of the two soil moisture sources indicates good agreement at Asham, Nigeria; mixed agreement at Cheorwon, South Korea; and no agreement at Laboue, Lebanon. Soil strengths and resulting vehicle speeds for a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) M1097 were calculated based on the Harmonized World Soil Database soil types used by the two soil moisture sources, as well as with a finer-resolution National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency product. Better agreement was found in soil strengths using the finer-resolution soil product. Finally, fairly large differences in soil moisture become muted in the speed calculations even when all factors except soil strength, slope, and vehicle performance are neglected. It is expected that the 0.04 volumetric uncertainty in the final SMAP L3 soil moisture product will have the greatest effect at low vehicle speeds. Field measurements of soil moisture and strength as well as soil type are needed to verify the results.

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Catherine Champagne, Andrew Davidson, Patrick Cherneski, Jessika L’Heureux, and Trevor Hadwen

Abstract

Soil moisture from Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) passive microwave satellite data was assessed as an information source for identifying regions experiencing climate-related agricultural risk for a period from 2010 to 2013. Both absolute soil moisture and soil moisture anomalies compared to a 4-yr SMOS satellite baseline were used in the assessment. The 4-yr operational period of SMOS was wetter than the 30-yr climate normal in many locations, particularly in the late summer for most regions and in the spring for the province of Manitoba. This leads to a somewhat unrepresentative baseline that skews anomaly measures at different parts of the growing season. SMOS soil moisture does, however, show a clear trend where extremes are present, with drier-than-average conditions during periods that drought and dry soil risks were identified and wetter-than-average conditions when flooding and excess moisture were present. Areas where extreme weather events caused crop losses were identifiable using SMOS soil moisture, both at the provincial and regional scales. The variability in soil moisture between at-risk areas and normal areas is very small but consistent, both geographically and over time, making SMOS a good real-time indicator for risk assessment.

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Sujay V. Kumar, Kenneth W. Harrison, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., and Dalia Kirschbaum

Abstract

Observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) are often conducted to evaluate the worth of existing data and data yet to be collected from proposed new missions. As missions increasingly require a broader “Earth systems” focus, it is important that the OSSEs capture the potential benefits of the observations on end-use applications. Toward this end, the results from the OSSEs must also be evaluated with a suite of metrics that capture the value, uncertainty, and information content of the observations while factoring in both science and societal impacts. This article presents a soil moisture OSSE that employs simulated L-band measurements and assesses its utility toward improving drought and flood risk estimates using the NASA Land Information System (LIS). A decision-theory-based analysis is conducted to assess the economic utility of the observations toward improving these applications. The results suggest that the improvements in surface soil moisture, root-zone soil moisture, and total runoff fields obtained through the assimilation of L-band measurements are effective in providing improvements in the drought and flood risk assessments as well. The decision-theory analysis not only demonstrates the economic utility of observations but also shows that the use of probabilistic information from the model simulations is more beneficial compared to the use of corresponding deterministic estimates. The experiment also demonstrates the value of a comprehensive modeling environment such as LIS for conducting end-to-end OSSEs by linking satellite observations, physical models, data assimilation algorithms, and end-use application models in a single integrated framework.

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Fan Chen, Wade T. Crow, and Dongryeol Ryu

Abstract

Uncertainties in precipitation forcing and prestorm soil moisture states represent important sources of error in streamflow predictions obtained from a hydrologic model. An earlier synthetic twin experiment has demonstrated that error in both antecedent soil moisture states and rainfall forcing can be filtered by assimilating remotely sensed surface soil moisture retrievals. This opens up the possibility of applying satellite soil moisture estimates to address both key sources of error in hydrologic model predictions. Here, in an attempt to extend the synthetic analysis into a real-data environment, two satellite-based surface soil moisture products—based on both passive and active microwave remote sensing—are assimilated using the same dual forcing/state correction approach. A bias correction scheme is implemented to remove bias in background forecasts caused by synthetic perturbations in the ensemble filtering routines, and a triple collocation–based technique is adopted to derive rescaled observations and observation error variances. Results are largely in agreement with the earlier synthetic analysis. That is, the correction of satellite-derived rainfall forcing is able to improve streamflow prediction, especially during relatively high-flow periods. In contrast, prestorm soil moisture state correction is more efficient in improving the base flow component of streamflow. When rainfall and soil moisture state corrections are combined, the RMSE of both the high- and low-flow components of streamflow can be reduced by ~40% and ~30%, respectively. However, an unresolved issue is that soil moisture data assimilation also leads to underprediction of very intense precipitation/high-flow events.

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Randal D. Koster, Gregory K. Walker, Sarith P. P. Mahanama, and Rolf H. Reichle

Abstract

Offline simulations over the conterminous United States (CONUS) with a land surface model are used to address two issues relevant to the forecasting of large-scale seasonal streamflow: (i) the extent to which errors in soil moisture initialization degrade streamflow forecasts, and (ii) the extent to which a realistic increase in the spatial resolution of forecasted precipitation would improve streamflow forecasts. The addition of error to a soil moisture initialization field is found to lead to a nearly proportional reduction in large-scale seasonal streamflow forecast skill. The linearity of the response allows the determination of a lower bound for the increase in streamflow forecast skill achievable through improved soil moisture estimation, for example, through the assimilation of satellite-based soil moisture measurements. An increase in the resolution of precipitation is found to have an impact on large-scale seasonal streamflow forecasts only when evaporation variance is significant relative to precipitation variance. This condition is met only in the western half of the CONUS domain. Taken together, the two studies demonstrate the utility of a continental-scale land surface–modeling system as a tool for addressing the science of hydrological prediction.

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