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Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

Ensembles of boreal summer coupled land–atmosphere climate model integrations for 1987 and 1988 are conducted with and without interactive soil moisture to evaluate the degree of climate drift in the coupled land–atmosphere model system, and to gauge the quality of the specified soil moisture dataset from the Global Soil Wetness Project (GSWP). Use of specified GSWP soil moisture leads to improved simulations of rainfall patterns, and significantly reduces root-mean-square errors in near-surface air temperature, indicating that the GSWP product is of useful quality and can also be used to supply initial conditions to fully coupled climate integrations. Integrations using specified soil moisture from the opposite year suggest that the interannual variability in the GSWP dataset is significant and contributes to the quality of the simulation of precipitation above what would be possible with only a mean annual cycle climatology of soil moisture. In particular, specification of soil wetness from the wrong year measurably degrades the correlation of simulated precipitation and temperature patterns compared to observed.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

An atmospheric general circulation model with land surface properties represented by the Simplified Simple Biosphere Model is used to investigate the effect of soil moisture and vegetation stress on drought in the mid-latitudes. An idealized land-sea distribution with simple topography is used to remove as many external sources of climate variation as possible. The land consists of a single, flat, rectangular continent covered with prairie vegetation and centered on 44°N of an aqua planet. A control integration of 4 years is performed, and several sets of seasonal anomaly integrations are made to test the sensitivity of seasonal climate to low initial (1 April) soil moisture and dormant vegetation like what would occur during a severe drought.

It is found that the inclusion of dormant vegetation during the spring and early summer greatly reduces evapotranspiration by eliminating transpiration. This affects local climate more strongly as summer progresses. Low initial soil moisture, combined with dormant vegetation, leads to a severe drought. The reduction in precipitation is much greater in magnitude than that due to low soil moisture alone, and greater than the sum of the effects computed separately. Although the short-term drought is more severe, the dormancy of the vegetation prevents further depletion of moisture in the root zone of the soil, so soil moisture begins to rebound toward the middle of summer.

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David O. Benson
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

Increased heat-wave frequency across the United States has led to the need for improved predictability of heat-wave events. A detailed understanding of land–atmosphere interactions and the relationship between soil moisture and temperature extremes could provide useful information for prediction. This study identifies, for many locations, a threshold of soil moisture below which there is an increase in the sensitivity of atmospheric temperature to declining soil moisture. This shift to a hypersensitive regime causes the atmosphere to be more susceptible to atmospherically driven heat-wave conditions. The soil moisture breakpoint where the regime shift occurs is estimated using segmented regression applied to observations and reanalysis data. It is shown that as the soil gets drier, there is a concomitant change in the rate of decrease in latent heat flux and increase in sensible heat flux leading to a strong positive feedback of increased air temperature near the surface, which further dries out the soil. Central, southwestern, and southeastern parts of the United States seem to have regions of clear regime shifts, while the eastern part of the United States generally does not get dry enough to reveal significant breakpoints. Sensible heat flux is seen to be a primary driver of this increased temperature sensitivity aided by the drop in latent heat flux. An investigation of flux tower sites verifies the breakpoint–flux relationships found in reanalysis data. Accurate estimation of these breakpoints can contribute to improved heat-wave prediction.

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David O. Benson
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

Thresholds of soil moisture exist below which the atmosphere becomes hypersensitive to land surface drying, inducing thermal feedbacks that can exacerbate heatwaves. Realistic representation of threshold transitions in forecast models could improve extreme heat predictability and understanding of the role of land–atmosphere coupling. This study evaluates the performance of several forecast models from the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) and several prototype versions of the Unified Forecast System (UFS) in their representation of threshold transitions by validation against reanalysis data. A metric of skill (true skill score) is applied to soil moisture breakpoint values, which mark the transition to heatwave hypersensitivity for drying soils. Forecast models have poor skill at being initialized on the correct side of the breakpoint, but show improvement when normalized to account for deficiencies in their soil moisture climatologies. Regionally, models performed best in the U.S. Northwest and worst in the Southwest. They effectively capture the tendency of western regions to spend more summer days in the hypersensitive regime than the eastern United States. Models represent well extreme heat as a consequence of atmospheric initial state for the first week of the forecast, but struggle to represent the soil moisture feedback regime. Forecast models generally perform better at extreme heat prediction when they are already dry and in the hypersensitive regime, even when erroneously so, implying that errors or biases exist in model parameterizations. Nevertheless, composite analysis shows encouraging model performance of the “hit” category, suggesting that an improvement in soil moisture initialization could further improve extreme heat forecast skill.

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Liang Chen
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

ABSTRACT

Recent studies have shown the impacts of historical land-use land-cover changes (i.e., deforestation) on hot temperature extremes; contradictory temperature responses have been found between studies using observations and climate models. However, different characterizations of surface temperature are sometimes used in the assessments: land surface skin temperature T s is more commonly used in observation-based studies while near-surface air temperature T 2m is more often used in model-based studies. The inconsistent use of temperature variables is not inconsequential, and the relationship between deforestation and various temperature changes can be entangled, which complicates comparisons between observations and model simulations. In this study, the responses in the diurnal cycle of summertime T s and T 2m to deforestation are investigated using the Community Earth System Model. For the daily maximum, opposite responses are found in T s and T 2m. Due to decreased surface roughness after deforestation, the heat at the land surface cannot be efficiently dissipated into the air, leading to a warmer surface but cooler air. For the daily minimum, strong warming is found in T 2m, which exceeds daytime cooling and leads to overall warming in daily mean temperatures. After comparing several climate models, we find that the models agree in daytime land surface (T s ) warming, but different turbulent transfer characteristics produce discrepancies in T 2m. Our work highlights the need to investigate the diurnal cycles of temperature responses carefully in land-cover change studies. Furthermore, consistent consideration of temperature variables should be applied in future comparisons involving observations and climate models.

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Subhadeep Halder
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

This observationally based study demonstrates the importance of the delayed hydrological response of snow cover and snowmelt over the Eurasian region and Tibet for variability of Indian summer monsoon rainfall during the first two months after onset. Using snow cover fraction and snow water equivalent data during 1967–2003, it is demonstrated that, although the snow-albedo effect is prevalent over western Eurasia, the delayed hydrological effect is strong and persistent over the eastern part. Long soil moisture memory and strong sensitivity of surface fluxes to soil moisture variations over eastern Asia and Tibet provide a mechanism for soil moisture anomalies generated by anomalies in winter and spring snowfall to affect rainfall during the initial months in summer. Dry soil moisture anomalies over the eastern Eurasian region associated with anomalous heating at the surface and midtroposphere help in anchoring of an anomalous upper-tropospheric “blocking” ridge around 100°E and its persistence. This not only leads to prolonged weakening of the subtropical westerly jet but also shifts its position southward of 30°N, followed by penetration of anomalous troughs in the westerlies into the Indian region. Simultaneously, intrusion of cold and dry air from the midlatitudes can reduce the convective instability and hence rainfall over India after the onset. Such a southward shift of the jet can also significantly weaken the vertical easterly wind shear over the Indian region in summer and lead to decrease in rainfall. This delayed hydrological effect also has the potential to modulate the snow–atmosphere coupling strength for temperature and precipitation in operational forecast models through soil moisture–evaporation–precipitation feedbacks.

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Liang Chen
and
Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

This study investigates the impacts of historical land-cover change on summer afternoon precipitation over North America using the Community Earth System Model. Using land–atmosphere coupling metrics, this study examines the sensitivity of afternoon atmospheric conditions to morning land surface states and fluxes that are altered by land-cover changes before and since 1850. The deforestation in the eastern United States prior to 1850 leads to increased latent but decreased sensible heat flux during the morning and a reduction in afternoon precipitation over the southern regions of the U.S. East Coast. The agricultural expansion over the Great Plains since preindustrial times shows similar effects on surface fluxes but results in a significant widespread increase in precipitation over the crop area. The coupling metrics exhibit a strong positive soil moisture–precipitation relationship over the Great Plains. Impacts of land-cover change on precipitation manifest through changes in rainfall frequency, rather than intensity, that are largely controlled by the distribution of CAPE as the trigger of convective precipitation. However, deforestation and later reforestation over the eastern United States, where coupling properties are different than the Great Plains, do not have as dominant an effect on afternoon precipitation. Additionally, precipitation over parts of the U.S. Southwest decreases in this model during the earlier period of East Coast deforestation, owing to changes in the large-scale circulation over North America driven by land-use changes prior to 1850.

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Jiangfeng Wei
,
Paul A. Dirmeyer
, and
Zhichang Guo

Abstract

The Global Land–Atmosphere Coupling Experiment (GLACE) built a framework to estimate the strength of the land–atmosphere interaction across many weather and climate models. Within this framework, GLACE-type experiments are performed with a single atmospheric model coupled to three different land models. The precipitation time series is decomposed into three frequency bands to investigate the large-scale connection between external forcing, precipitation variability and predictability, and land–atmosphere coupling strength. It is found that coupling to different land models or prescribing subsurface soil moisture does not change the global pattern of precipitation predictability and variability too much. However, the regional impact of soil moisture can be highlighted by calculating the land–atmosphere coupling strength, which shows very different patterns for the three models. The estimated precipitation predictability and land–atmosphere coupling strength is mainly associated with the low-frequency component of precipitation (periods beyond 3 weeks). Based on these findings, the land–atmosphere coupling strength is conceptually decomposed into the impact of low-frequency external forcing and the impact of soil moisture. Because most models participating in GLACE have overestimated the low-frequency component of precipitation, a calibration to the GLACE-estimated land–atmosphere coupling strength is performed. The calibrated coupling strength is generally weaker, but the global pattern does not change much. This study provides an important clarification of land–atmosphere coupling strength and increases the understanding of the land–atmosphere interaction.

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Chul-Su Shin
,
Paul A. Dirmeyer
, and
Bohua Huang

Abstract

Normalized mutual information (NMI) is a nonparametric measure of the dependence between two variables without assumptions about the shape of their bivariate data distributions, but the implementation and interpretation of NMI in the coupled climate system is more complicated than for linear correlations. This study presents a joint approach combining correlation and NMI to examine land and ocean surface forcing of U.S. drought at varying lead times. Based on the distribution of correlation versus NMI between a source variable (local or remote forcing) and target variable [e.g., summer precipitation in the southern Great Plains (SGP)], newly proposed one-tail significance levels for NMI combined with two-tailed significance levels of correlation enable us to discern linearity and nonlinearity dominant regimes in a more intuitive way. Our analysis finds that NMI can detect strong linear relationships like correlations, but it is not exclusively tuned to linear relationships as correlations are. Also, NMI can further identify nonlinear relationships, particularly when there are clusters and blank areas (high density and low density) in joint probability distributions between source and target variables (e.g., detected between soil moisture conditions in eastern Montana from mid-February to mid-August and summer precipitation in the SGP). The linear and nonlinear information are found to be sometimes mixed and rather convoluted with time, for instance, in the subtropical Pacific of the Southern Hemisphere, revealing relationships that cannot be fully detected by either NMI or correlation alone. Therefore, this joint approach is a potentially powerful tool to reveal complex and heretofore undetected relationships.

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Jiangfeng Wei
,
Paul A. Dirmeyer
,
Zhichang Guo
,
Li Zhang
, and
Vasubandhu Misra

Abstract

An atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) is coupled to three different land surface schemes (LSSs), both individually and in combination (i.e., the LSSs receive the same AGCM forcing each time step and the averaged upward surface fluxes are passed back to the AGCM), to study the uncertainty of simulated climatologies and variabilities caused by different LSSs. This tiling of the LSSs is done to study the uncertainty of simulated mean climate and climate variability caused by variations between LSSs. The three LSSs produce significantly different surface fluxes over most of the land, no matter whether they are coupled individually or in combination. Although the three LSSs receive the same atmospheric forcing in the combined experiment, the inter-LSS spread of latent heat flux can be larger or smaller than the individually coupled experiment, depending mostly on the evaporation regime of the schemes in different regions. Differences in precipitation are the main reason for the different latent heat fluxes over semiarid regions, but for sensible heat flux, the atmospheric differences and LSS differences have comparable contributions. The influence of LSS uncertainties on the simulation of surface temperature is strongest in dry seasons, and its influence on daily maximum temperature is stronger than on minimum temperature. Land–atmosphere interaction can dampen the impact of LSS uncertainties on surface temperature in the tropics, but can strengthen their impact in middle to high latitudes. Variations in the persistence of surface heat fluxes exist among the LSSs, which, however, have little impact on the global pattern of precipitation persistence. The results provide guidance to future diagnosis of model uncertainties related to LSSs.

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