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Maik Renner
,
Axel Kleidon
,
Martyn Clark
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Marvin Heidkamp
,
Martin Best
, and
Gab Abramowitz

Abstract

The diurnal cycle of solar radiation represents the strongest energetic forcing and dominates the exchange of heat and mass of the land surface with the atmosphere. This diurnal heat redistribution represents a core of land–atmosphere coupling that should be accurately represented in land surface models (LSMs), which are critical parts of weather and climate models. We employ a diagnostic model evaluation approach using a signature-based metric that describes the diurnal variation of heat fluxes. The metric is obtained by decomposing the diurnal variation of surface heat fluxes into their direct response and the phase lag to incoming solar radiation. We employ the output of 13 different LSMs driven with meteorological forcing of 20 FLUXNET sites (PLUMBER dataset). All LSMs show a poor representation of the evaporative fraction and thus the diurnal magnitude of the sensible and latent heat flux under cloud-free conditions. In addition, we find that the diurnal phase of both heat fluxes is poorly represented. The best performing model only reproduces 33% of the evaluated evaporative conditions across the sites. The poor performance of the diurnal cycle of turbulent heat exchange appears to be linked to how models solve for the surface energy balance and redistribute heat into the subsurface. We conclude that a systematic evaluation of diurnal signatures is likely to help to improve the simulated diurnal cycle, better represent land–atmosphere interactions, and therefore improve simulations of the near-surface climate.

Open access
Bart Nijssen
,
Greg M. O'Donnell
,
Dennis P. Lettenmaier
,
Dag Lohmann
, and
Eric F. Wood

Abstract

The ability to simulate coupled energy and water fluxes over large continental river basins, in particular streamflow, was largely nonexistent a decade ago. Since then, macroscale hydrological models (MHMs) have been developed, which predict such fluxes at continental and subcontinental scales. Because the runoff formulation in MHMs must be parameterized because of the large spatial scale at which they are implemented, some calibration of model parameters is inevitably necessary. However, calibration is a time-consuming process and quickly becomes infeasible when the modeled area or the number of basins increases. A methodology for model parameter transfer is described that limits the number of basins requiring direct calibration. Parameters initially were estimated for nine large river basins. As a first attempt to transfer parameters, the global land area was grouped by climate zone, and model parameters were transferred within zones. The transferred parameters were then used to simulate the water balance in 17 other continental river basins. Although the parameter transfer approach did not reduce the bias and root-mean-square error (rmse) for each individual basin, in aggregate the transferred parameters reduced the relative (monthly) rmse from 121% to 96% and the mean bias from 41% to 36%. Subsequent direct calibration of all basins further reduced the relative rmse to an average of 70% and the bias to 12%. After transferring the parameters globally, the mean annual global runoff increased 9.4% and evapotranspiration decreased by 5.0% in comparison with an earlier global simulation using uncalibrated parameters. On a continental basis, the changes in runoff and evapotranspiration were much larger. A diagnosis of simulation errors for four basins with particularly poor results showed that most of the error was attributable to bias in the Global Precipitation Climatology Project precipitation products used to drive the MHM.

Full 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
Alice K. DuVivier
,
John J. Cassano
,
Anthony Craig
,
Joseph Hamman
,
Wieslaw Maslowski
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Robert Osinski
, and
Andrew Roberts

Abstract

Strong, mesoscale tip jets and barrier winds that occur along the southeastern Greenland coast have the potential to impact deep convection in the Irminger Sea. The self-organizing map (SOM) training algorithm was used to identify 12 wind patterns that represent the range of winter [November–March (NDJFM)] wind regimes identified in the fully coupled Regional Arctic System Model (RASM) during 1990–2010. For all wind patterns, the ocean loses buoyancy, primarily through the turbulent sensible and latent heat fluxes; haline contributions to buoyancy change were found to be insignificant compared to the thermal contributions. Patterns with westerly winds at the Cape Farewell area had the largest buoyancy loss over the Irminger and Labrador Seas due to large turbulent fluxes from strong winds and the advection of anomalously cold, dry air over the warmer ocean. Similar to observations, RASM simulated typical ocean mixed layer depths (MLD) of approximately 400 m throughout the Irminger basin, with individual years experiencing MLDs of 800 m or greater. The ocean mixed layer deepens over most of the Irminger Sea following wind events with northerly flow, and the deepening is greater for patterns of longer duration. Seasonal deepest MLD is strongly and positively correlated to the frequency of westerly tip jets with northerly flow.

Full access
Ben Livneh
,
Eric A. Rosenberg
,
Chiyu Lin
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Vimal Mishra
,
Kostas M. Andreadis
,
Edwin P. Maurer
, and
Dennis P. Lettenmaier
Full access
Joseph Hamman
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Michael Brunke
,
John Cassano
,
Anthony Craig
,
Alice DuVivier
,
Mimi Hughes
,
Dennis P. Lettenmaier
,
Wieslaw Maslowski
,
Robert Osinski
,
Andrew Roberts
, and
Xubin Zeng

Abstract

The Regional Arctic System Model (RASM) is a fully coupled, regional Earth system model applied over the pan-Arctic domain. This paper discusses the implementation of the Variable Infiltration Capacity land surface model (VIC) in RASM and evaluates the ability of RASM, version 1.0, to capture key features of the land surface climate and hydrologic cycle for the period 1979–2014 in comparison with uncoupled VIC simulations, reanalysis datasets, satellite measurements, and in situ observations. RASM reproduces the dominant features of the land surface climatology in the Arctic, such as the amount and regional distribution of precipitation, the partitioning of precipitation between runoff and evapotranspiration, the effects of snow on the water and energy balance, and the differences in turbulent fluxes between the tundra and taiga biomes. Surface air temperature biases in RASM, compared to reanalysis datasets ERA-Interim and MERRA, are generally less than 2°C; however, in the cold seasons there are local biases that exceed 6°C. Compared to satellite observations, RASM captures the annual cycle of snow-covered area well, although melt progresses about two weeks faster than observations in the late spring at high latitudes. With respect to derived fluxes, such as latent heat or runoff, RASM is shown to have similar performance statistics as ERA-Interim while differing substantially from MERRA, which consistently overestimates the evaporative flux across the Arctic region.

Full access
Bart Nijssen
,
Shraddhanand Shukla
,
Chiyu Lin
,
Huilin Gao
,
Tian Zhou
,
Ishottama
,
Justin Sheffield
,
Eric F. Wood
, and
Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The implementation of a multimodel drought monitoring system is described, which provides near-real-time estimates of surface moisture storage for the global land areas between 50°S and 50°N with a time lag of about 1 day. Near-real-time forcings are derived from satellite-based precipitation estimates and modeled air temperatures. The system distinguishes itself from other operational systems in that it uses multiple land surface models (Variable Infiltration Capacity, Noah, and Sacramento) to simulate surface moisture storage, which are then combined to derive a multimodel estimate of drought. A comparison of the results with other historic and current drought estimates demonstrates that near-real-time nowcasting of global drought conditions based on satellite and model forcings is entirely feasible. However, challenges remain because hydrological droughts are inherently defined in the context of a long-term climatology. Changes in observing platforms can be misinterpreted as droughts (or as excessively wet periods). This problem cannot simply be addressed through the addition of more observations or through the development of new observing platforms. Instead, it will require careful (re)construction of long-term records that are updated in near–real time in a consistent manner so that changes in surface meteorological forcings reflect actual conditions rather than changes in methods or sources.

Full access
Andrew J. Newman
,
Martyn P. Clark
,
Jason Craig
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Andrew Wood
,
Ethan Gutmann
,
Naoki Mizukami
,
Levi Brekke
, and
Jeff R. Arnold

Abstract

Gridded precipitation and temperature products are inherently uncertain because of myriad factors, including interpolation from a sparse observation network, measurement representativeness, and measurement errors. Generally uncertainty is not explicitly accounted for in gridded products of precipitation or temperature; if it is represented, it is often included in an ad hoc manner. A lack of quantitative uncertainty estimates for hydrometeorological forcing fields limits the application of advanced data assimilation systems and other tools in land surface and hydrologic modeling. This study develops a gridded, observation-based ensemble of precipitation and temperature at a daily increment for the period 1980–2012 for the conterminous United States, northern Mexico, and southern Canada. This allows for the estimation of precipitation and temperature uncertainty in hydrologic modeling and data assimilation through the use of the ensemble variance. Statistical verification of the ensemble indicates that it has generally good reliability and discrimination of events of various magnitudes but has a slight wet bias for high threshold events (>50 mm). The ensemble mean is similar to other widely used hydrometeorological datasets but with some important differences. The ensemble product produces a more realistic occurrence of precipitation statistics (wet day fraction), which impacts the empirical derivation of other fields used in land surface and hydrologic modeling. In terms of applications, skill in simulations of streamflow in 671 headwater basins is similar to other coarse-resolution datasets. This is the first version, and future work will address temporal correlation of precipitation anomalies, inclusion of other data streams, and examination of topographic lapse rate choices.

Full access
Martyn P. Clark
,
Reza Zolfaghari
,
Kevin R. Green
,
Sean Trim
,
Wouter J. M. Knoben
,
Andrew Bennett
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Andrew Ireson
, and
Raymond J. Spiteri

Abstract

The intent of this paper is to encourage improved numerical implementation of land models. Our contributions in this paper are twofold. First, we present a unified framework to formulate and implement land model equations. We separate the representation of physical processes from their numerical solution, enabling the use of established robust numerical methods to solve the model equations. Second, we introduce a set of synthetic test cases (the laugh tests) to evaluate the numerical implementation of land models. The test cases include storage and transmission of water in soils, lateral subsurface flow, coupled hydrological and thermodynamic processes in snow, and cryosuction processes in soil. We consider synthetic test cases as “laugh tests” for land models because they provide the most rudimentary test of model capabilities. The laugh tests presented in this paper are all solved with the Structure for Unifying Multiple Modeling Alternatives (SUMMA) model implemented using the Suite of Nonlinear and Differential/Algebraic Equation Solvers (SUNDIALS). The numerical simulations from SUMMA/SUNDIALS are compared against 1) solutions to the synthetic test cases from other models documented in the peer-reviewed literature, 2) analytical solutions, and 3) observations made in laboratory experiments. In all cases, the numerical simulations are similar to the benchmarks, building confidence in the numerical model implementation. We posit that some land models may have difficulty in solving these benchmark problems. Dedicating more effort to solving synthetic test cases is critical in order to build confidence in the numerical implementation of land models.

Open access
Alan D. Ziegler
,
Justin Sheffield
,
Edwin P. Maurer
,
Bart Nijssen
,
Eric F. Wood
, and
Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

Diagnostic studies of offline, global-scale Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model simulations of terrestrial water budgets and simulations of the climate of the twenty-first century using the parallel climate model (PCM) are used to estimate the time required to detect plausible changes in precipitation (P), evaporation (E), and discharge (Q) if the global water cycle intensifies in response to global warming. Given the annual variability in these continental hydrological cycle components, several decades to perhaps more than a century of observations are needed to detect water cycle changes on the order of magnitude predicted by many global climate model studies simulating global warming scenarios. Global increases in precipitation, evaporation, and runoff of 0.6, 0.4, and 0.2 mm yr−1 require approximately 30–45, 25–35, and 50–60 yr, respectively, to detect with high confidence. These conservative detection time estimates are based on statistical error criteria (α = 0.05, β = 0.10) that are associated with high statistical confidence, 1 − α (accept hypothesis of intensification when true, i.e., intensification is occurring), and high statistical power, 1 − β (reject hypothesis of intensification when false, i.e., intensification is not occurring). If one is willing to accept a higher degree of risk in making a statistical error, the detection time estimates can be reduced substantially. Owing in part to greater variability, detection time of changes in continental P, E, and Q are longer than those for the globe. Similar calculations performed for three Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX) basins reveal that minimum detection time for some of these basins may be longer than that for the corresponding continent as a whole, thereby calling into question the appropriateness of using continental-scale basins alone for rapid detection of changes in continental water cycles. A case is made for implementing networks of small-scale indicator basins, which collectively mimic the variability in continental P, E, and Q, to detect acceleration in the global water cycle.

Full access