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Yun Fan
Huug M. van den Dool
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Wanru Wu


Several land surface datasets, such as the observed Illinois soil moisture dataset; three retrospective offline run datasets from the Noah land surface model (LSM), Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) LSM, and Climate Prediction Center leaky bucket soil model; and three reanalysis datasets (North American Regional Reanalysis, NCEP/Department of Energy Global Reanalysis, and 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis), are used to study the spatial and temporal variability of soil moisture and its response to the major components of land surface hydrologic cycles: precipitation, evaporation, and runoff. Detailed analysis was performed on the evolution of the soil moisture vertical profile. Over Illinois, model simulations are compared to observations, but for the United States as a whole some impressions can be gained by comparing the multiple soil moisture–precipitation–evaporation–runoff datasets to one another. The magnitudes and partitioning of major land surface water balance components on seasonal–interannual time scales have been explored. It appears that evaporation has the most prominent annual cycle but its interannual variability is relatively small. For other water balance components, such as precipitation, runoff, and surface water storage change, the amplitudes of their annual cycles and interannual variations are comparable. This study indicates that all models have a certain capability to reproduce observed soil moisture variability on seasonal–interannual time scales, but offline runs are decidedly better than reanalyses (in terms of validation against observations) and more highly correlated to one another (in terms of intercomparison) in general. However, noticeable differences are also observed, such as the degree of simulated drought severity and the locations affected—this is due to the uncertainty in model physics, input forcing, and mode of running (interactive or offline), which continue to be major issues for land surface modeling.

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