A meteorological drought in 2018 led to senescence of the C3 grass at Cardington, Bedfordshire, UK. Observations of near-surface atmospheric variables and soil moisture are compared to simulations by the JULES land surface model (LSM) as used for Met Office forecasts. In years without drought, JULES provides better standalone simulations of evapotranspiration (ET) and soil moisture when the canopy height and rooting depth are reduced to match local conditions. During drought with the adjusted configuration, JULES correctly estimates total ET, but the components are in the wrong proportions. Several factors affect the estimation of ET including modeled skin temperatures, dewfall and bare-soil evaporation. A diurnal range of skin temperatures close to observed is produced via the adjusted configuration and doubling the optical extinction coefficient. Although modeled ET during drought matches observed ET, this includes simulation of transpiration but in reality the grass was senescent. Excluding transpiration, the modeled bare-soil evaporation underestimates the observed midday latent heat flux. Part of the missing latent heat may relate to inappropriate parameterization of hydraulic properties of dry soils and part may be due to insufficient evaporation of dew. Dew meters indicate dewfall of up to 20 W m−2 during drought when the surface is cooling radiatively and turbulence is minimal. These data demonstrate that eddy-covariance techniques fail to reliably record the times, intensity and variations in negative latent heat flux. Furthermore, the parameterization of atmospheric turbulence as used in LSMs fails to represent accurately dewfall during calm conditions when the surface is radiatively cooled.

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