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Omar V. Müller, Miguel A. Lovino, and Ernesto H. Berbery

Abstract

Weather forecasting and monitoring systems based on regional models are becoming increasingly relevant for decision support in agriculture and water management. This work evaluates the predictive and monitoring capabilities of a system based on WRF Model simulations at 15-km grid spacing over the La Plata basin (LPB) in southern South America, where agriculture and water resources are essential. The model’s skill up to a lead time of 7 days is evaluated with daily precipitation and 2-m temperature in situ observations for the 2-yr period from 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2014. Results show high prediction performance with 7-day lead time throughout the domain and particularly over LPB, where about 70% of rain and no-rain days are correctly predicted. Also, the probability of detection of rain days is above 80% in humid regions. Temperature observations and forecasts are highly correlated (r > 0.80) while mean absolute errors, even at the maximum lead time, remain below 2.7°C for minimum and mean temperatures and below 3.7°C for maximum temperatures. The usefulness of WRF products for hydroclimate monitoring was tested for an unprecedented drought in southern Brazil and for a slightly above normal precipitation season in northeastern Argentina. In both cases the model products reproduce the observed precipitation conditions with consistent impacts on soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and runoff. This evaluation validates the model’s usefulness for forecasting weather up to 1 week in advance and for monitoring climate conditions in real time. The scores suggest that the forecast lead time can be extended into a second week, while bias correction methods can reduce some of the systematic errors.

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Estela A. Collini, Ernesto H. Berbery, Vicente R. Barros, and Matthew E. Pyle

Abstract

This article discusses the feedbacks between soil moisture and precipitation during the early stages of the South American monsoon. The system achieves maximum precipitation over the southern Amazon basin and the Brazilian highlands during the austral summer. Monsoon changes are associated with the large-scale dynamics, but during its early stages, when the surface is not sufficiently wet, soil moisture anomalies may also modulate the development of precipitation. To investigate this, sensitivity experiments to initial soil moisture conditions were performed using month-long simulations with the regional mesoscale Eta model. Examination of the control simulations shows that they reproduce all major features and magnitudes of the South American circulation and precipitation patterns, particularly those of the monsoon. The surface sensible and latent heat fluxes, as well as precipitation, have a diurnal cycle whose phase is consistent with previous observational studies. The convective inhibition is smallest at the time of the precipitation maximum, but the convective available potential energy exhibits an unrealistic morning maximum that may result from an early boundary layer mixing.

The sensitivity experiments show that precipitation is more responsive to reductions of soil moisture than to increases, suggesting that although the soil is not too wet, it is sufficiently humid to easily reach levels where soil moisture anomalies stop being effective in altering the evapotranspiration and other surface and boundary layer variables. Two mechanisms by which soil moisture has a positive feedback with precipitation are discussed. First, the reduction of initial soil moisture leads to a smaller latent heat flux and a larger sensible heat flux, and both contribute to a larger Bowen ratio. The smaller evapotranspiration and increased sensible heat flux lead to a drier and warmer boundary layer, which in turn reduces the atmospheric instability. Second, the deeper (and drier) boundary layer is related to a stronger and higher South American low-level jet (SALLJ). However, because of the lesser moisture content, the SALLJ carries less moisture to the monsoon region, as evidenced by the reduced moisture fluxes and their convergence. The two mechanisms—reduced convective instability and reduced moisture flux convergence—act concurrently to diminish the core monsoon precipitation.

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Yan Luo, Ernesto H. Berbery, Kenneth E. Mitchell, and Alan K. Betts

Abstract

This study examines the recently released National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) products over diverse climate regimes to determine the regional relationships between soil moisture and near-surface atmospheric variables. NARR assimilates observed precipitation, as well as near-surface observations of humidity and wind, while seeking a balance of the surface water and energy budgets with a modern land surface model. The results of this study indicate that for most basins (of approximate size of 0.5–1.0 × 106 km2) the NARR surface water budgets have relatively small residuals (about 0.2 mm day−1), and slightly larger residuals (about 0.4 mm day−1) for basins with complex terrain like those in the western United States.

Given that the NARR is an assimilation system (especially one that assimilates observed precipitation), the NARR does not include feedbacks between soil moisture and precipitation. Nonetheless, as a diagnostic tool anchored to observations, the NARR does show that the extent of positive correlation between anomalies of soil moisture and anomalies of precipitation in a given region depends on that region’s dryness. The existence of correlations among all variables is a necessary—but not sufficient—condition for land–atmosphere feedbacks to exist, as a region with no correlations would not be expected to have feedbacks. Likewise, a high degree of persistence of soil moisture anomalies in a given basin does not by itself guarantee a positive correlation between anomalies of soil moisture and precipitation.

Land surface–atmosphere relationships at monthly time scales are identified by examining the associations between soil moisture and surface and boundary layer variables. Low soil moisture is consistently associated with increased net shortwave radiation and increased outgoing longwave radiation through the effects of less cloud cover and lower atmospheric humidity. No systematic association is revealed between soil moisture and total net surface radiation, as this relation varies substantially between different basins. Low soil moisture is positively correlated with increased sensible heat and lower latent heat (reflected in a smaller evaporative fraction), decreased low-cloud cover, and higher lifting condensation level. The relation between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies is found to be quite variable between the basins, depending on whether availability of surface water exceeds the available energy for evaporation, or vice versa. Wetter basins, like the Columbia and Ohio, display weak or no correlations between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies. On the other hand, transitional regions between wet and dry regions, like the central Great Plains, manifest a positive correlation between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies. These results further the understanding of previous predictability studies (in coupled land–atmosphere prediction models), which indicates that in order for precipitation anomalies to emerge in response to soil moisture anomalies in a given region, it is necessary that the region’s seasonal climate be neither too dry nor too wet.

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Siegfried D. Schubert, Ronald E. Stewart, Hailan Wang, Mathew Barlow, Ernesto H. Berbery, Wenju Cai, Martin P. Hoerling, Krishna K. Kanikicharla, Randal D. Koster, Bradfield Lyon, Annarita Mariotti, Carlos R. Mechoso, Omar V. Müller, Belen Rodriguez-Fonseca, Richard Seager, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Lixia Zhang, and Tianjun Zhou

Abstract

Drought affects virtually every region of the world, and potential shifts in its character in a changing climate are a major concern. This article presents a synthesis of current understanding of meteorological drought, with a focus on the large-scale controls on precipitation afforded by sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, land surface feedbacks, and radiative forcings. The synthesis is primarily based on regionally focused articles submitted to the Global Drought Information System (GDIS) collection together with new results from a suite of atmospheric general circulation model experiments intended to integrate those studies into a coherent view of drought worldwide. On interannual time scales, the preeminence of ENSO as a driver of meteorological drought throughout much of the Americas, eastern Asia, Australia, and the Maritime Continent is now well established, whereas in other regions (e.g., Europe, Africa, and India), the response to ENSO is more ephemeral or nonexistent. Northern Eurasia, central Europe, and central and eastern Canada stand out as regions with few SST-forced impacts on precipitation on interannual time scales. Decadal changes in SST appear to be a major factor in the occurrence of long-term drought, as highlighted by apparent impacts on precipitation of the late 1990s “climate shifts” in the Pacific and Atlantic SST. Key remaining research challenges include (i) better quantification of unforced and forced atmospheric variability as well as land–atmosphere feedbacks, (ii) better understanding of the physical basis for the leading modes of climate variability and their predictability, and (iii) quantification of the relative contributions of internal decadal SST variability and forced climate change to long-term drought.

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Fedor Mesinger, Geoff DiMego, Eugenia Kalnay, Kenneth Mitchell, Perry C. Shafran, Wesley Ebisuzaki, Dušan Jović, Jack Woollen, Eric Rogers, Ernesto H. Berbery, Michael B. Ek, Yun Fan, Robert Grumbine, Wayne Higgins, Hong Li, Ying Lin, Geoff Manikin, David Parrish, and Wei Shi

In 1997, during the late stages of production of NCEP–NCAR Global Reanalysis (GR), exploration of a regional reanalysis project was suggested by the GR project's Advisory Committee, “particularly if the RDAS [Regional Data Assimilation System] is significantly better than the global reanalysis at capturing the regional hydrological cycle, the diurnal cycle and other important features of weather and climate variability.” Following a 6-yr development and production effort, NCEP's North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) project was completed in 2004, and data are now available to the scientific community. Along with the use of the NCEP Eta model and its Data Assimilation System (at 32-km–45-layer resolution with 3-hourly output), the hallmarks of the NARR are the incorporation of hourly assimilation of precipitation, which leverages a comprehensive precipitation analysis effort, the use of a recent version of the Noah land surface model, and the use of numerous other datasets that are additional or improved compared to the GR. Following the practice applied to NCEP's GR, the 25-yr NARR retrospective production period (1979–2003) is augmented by the construction and daily execution of a system for near-real-time continuation of the NARR, known as the Regional Climate Data Assimilation System (R-CDAS). Highlights of the NARR results are presented: precipitation over the continental United States (CONUS), which is seen to be very near the ingested analyzed precipitation; fits of tropospheric temperatures and winds to rawinsonde observations; and fits of 2-m temperatures and 10-m winds to surface station observations. The aforementioned fits are compared to those of the NCEP–Department of Energy (DOE) Global Reanalysis (GR2). Not only have the expectations cited above been fully met, but very substantial improvements in the accuracy of temperatures and winds compared to that of GR2 are achieved throughout the troposphere. Finally, the numerous datasets produced are outlined and information is provided on the data archiving and present data availability.

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