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L. R. Vargas Zeppetello, Étienne Tétreault-Pinard, D. S. Battisti, and M. B. Baker

Abstract

Climate models show that soil moisture and its subseasonal fluctuations have important impacts on the surface latent heat flux, thus regulating surface temperature variations. Using correlations between monthly anomalies in net absorbed radiative fluxes, precipitation, 2-m air temperature, and soil moisture in the ERA-Interim reanalysis and the HadCM3 climate model, we develop a linear diagnostic model to quantify the major effects of land–atmosphere interactions on summertime surface temperature variability. The spatial patterns in 2-m air temperature and soil moisture variance from the diagnostic model are consistent with those from the products from which it was derived, although the diagnostic model generally underpredicts soil moisture variance. We use the diagnostic model to quantify the impact of soil moisture, shortwave radiation, and precipitation anomalies on temperature variance in wet and dry regions. Consistent with other studies, we find that fluctuations in soil moisture amplify temperature variance in dry regions through their impact on latent heat flux, whereas in wet regions temperature variability is muted because of high mean evapotranspiration rates afforded by plentiful surface soil moisture. We demonstrate how the diagnostic model can be used to identify sources of temperature variance bias in climate models.

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