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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Patricia M. Lawston

Abstract

Advances in satellite monitoring of the terrestrial water cycle have led to a concerted effort to assimilate soil moisture observations from various platforms into offline land surface models (LSMs). One principal but still open question is that of the ability of land data assimilation (LDA) to improve LSM initial conditions for coupled short-term weather prediction. In this study, the impact of assimilating Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) soil moisture retrievals on coupled WRF Model forecasts is examined during the summers of dry (2006) and wet (2007) surface conditions in the southern Great Plains. LDA is carried out using NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) and the Noah LSM through an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) approach. The impacts of LDA on the 1) soil moisture and soil temperature initial conditions for WRF, 2) land–atmosphere coupling characteristics, and 3) ambient weather of the coupled LIS–WRF simulations are then assessed. Results show that impacts of soil moisture LDA during the spinup can significantly modify LSM states and fluxes, depending on regime and season. Results also indicate that the use of seasonal cumulative distribution functions (CDFs) is more advantageous compared to the traditional annual CDF bias correction strategies. LDA performs consistently regardless of atmospheric forcing applied, with greater improvements seen when using coarser, global forcing products. Downstream impacts on coupled simulations vary according to the strength of the LDA impact at the initialization, where significant modifications to the soil moisture flux–PBL–ambient weather process chain are observed. Overall, this study demonstrates potential for future, higher-resolution soil moisture assimilation applications in weather and climate research.

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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Sujay V. Kumar, Charles Alonge, and Wei-Kuo Tao

Abstract

Land–atmosphere interactions play a critical role in determining the diurnal evolution of both planetary boundary layer (PBL) and land surface temperature and moisture states. The degree of coupling between the land surface and PBL in numerical weather prediction and climate models remains largely unexplored and undiagnosed because of the complex interactions and feedbacks present across a range of scales. Furthermore, uncoupled systems or experiments [e.g., the Project for the Intercomparison of Land-Surface Parameterization Schemes (PILPS)] may lead to inaccurate water and energy cycle process understanding by neglecting feedback processes such as PBL-top entrainment. In this study, a framework for diagnosing local land–atmosphere coupling is presented using a coupled mesoscale model with a suite of PBL and land surface model (LSM) options along with observations during field experiments in the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Specifically, the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) has been coupled to the Land Information System (LIS), which provides a flexible and high-resolution representation and initialization of land surface physics and states. Within this framework, the coupling established by each pairing of the available PBL schemes in WRF with the LSMs in LIS is evaluated in terms of the diurnal temperature and humidity evolution in the mixed layer. The coevolution of these variables and the convective PBL are sensitive to and, in fact, integrative of the dominant processes that govern the PBL budget, which are synthesized through the use of mixing diagrams. Results show how the sensitivity of land–atmosphere interactions to the specific choice of PBL scheme and LSM varies across surface moisture regimes and can be quantified and evaluated against observations. As such, this methodology provides a potential pathway to study factors controlling local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) using the LIS–WRF system, which will serve as a test bed for future experiments to evaluate coupling diagnostics within the community.

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Patricia M. Lawston, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Benjamin F. Zaitchik, and Matthew Rodell

Abstract

In the United States, irrigation represents the largest consumptive use of freshwater and accounts for approximately one-third of total water usage. Irrigation impacts soil moisture and can ultimately influence clouds and precipitation through land–planetary boundary layer (PBL) coupling processes. This study utilizes NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) and the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting Model (NU-WRF) framework to investigate the effects of drip, flood, and sprinkler irrigation methods on land–atmosphere interactions, including land–PBL coupling and feedbacks at the local scale. To initialize 2-day, 1-km WRF forecasts over the central Great Plains in a drier-than-normal (2006) and a wetter-than-normal year (2008), 5-yr irrigated LIS spinups were used. The offline and coupled simulation results show that regional irrigation impacts are sensitive to time, space, and method and that irrigation cools and moistens the surface over and downwind of irrigated areas, ultimately resulting in both positive and negative feedbacks on the PBL depending on the time of day and background climate conditions. Furthermore, the results portray the importance of both irrigation method physics and correct representation of several key components of land surface models, including accurate and timely land-cover and crop-type classification, phenology (greenness), and soil moisture anomalies (through a land surface model spinup) in coupled prediction models.

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Benjamin F. Zaitchik, Joseph A. Santanello, Sujay V. Kumar, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard

Abstract

Positive soil moisture–precipitation feedbacks can intensify heat and prolong drought under conditions of precipitation deficit. Adequate representation of these processes in regional climate models is, therefore, important for extended weather forecasts, seasonal drought analysis, and downscaled climate change projections. This paper presents the first application of the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting Model (NU-WRF) to simulation of seasonal drought. Simulations of the 2006 southern Great Plains drought performed with and without soil moisture memory indicate that local soil moisture feedbacks had the potential to concentrate precipitation in wet areas relative to dry areas in summer drought months. Introduction of a simple dynamic surface albedo scheme that models albedo as a function of soil moisture intensified the simulated feedback pattern at local scale—dry, brighter areas received even less precipitation while wet, whereas darker areas received more—but did not significantly change the total amount of precipitation simulated across the drought-affected region. This soil-moisture-mediated albedo land–atmosphere coupling pathway is structurally excluded from standard versions of WRF.

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Peter J. Shellito, Sujay V. Kumar, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Patricia Lawston-Parker, John D. Bolten, Michael H. Cosh, David D. Bosch, Chandra D. Holifield Collins, Stan Livingston, John Prueger, Mark Seyfried, and Patrick J. Starks

Abstract

The utility of hydrologic land surface models (LSMs) can be enhanced by using information from observational platforms, but mismatches between the two are common. This study assesses the degree to which model agreement with observations is affected by two mechanisms in particular: 1) physical incongruities between the support volumes being characterized and 2) inadequate or inconsistent parameterizations of physical processes. The Noah and Noah-MP LSMs by default characterize surface soil moisture (SSM) in the top 10 cm of the soil column. This depth is notably different from the 5-cm (or less) sensing depth of L-band radiometers such as NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission. These depth inconsistencies are examined by using thinner model layers in the Noah and Noah-MP LSMs and comparing resultant simulations to in situ and SMAP soil moisture. In addition, a forward radiative transfer model (RTM) is used to facilitate direct comparisons of LSM-based and SMAP-based L-band Tb retrievals. Agreement between models and observations is quantified using Kolmogorov–Smirnov distance values, calculated from empirical cumulative distribution functions of SSM and Tb time series. Results show that agreement of SSM and Tb with observations depends primarily on systematic biases, and the sign of those biases depends on the particular subspace being analyzed (SSM or Tb). This study concludes that the role of increased soil layer discretization on simulated soil moisture and Tb is secondary to the influence of component parameterizations, the effects of which dominate systematic differences with observations.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer, Liang Chen, Jiexia Wu, Chul-Su Shin, Bohua Huang, Benjamin A. Cash, Michael G. Bosilovich, Sarith Mahanama, Randal D. Koster, Joseph A. Santanello, Michael B. Ek, Gianpaolo Balsamo, Emanuel Dutra, and David M. Lawrence

Abstract

This study compares four model systems in three configurations (LSM, LSM + GCM, and reanalysis) with global flux tower observations to validate states, surface fluxes, and coupling indices between land and atmosphere. Models clearly underrepresent the feedback of surface fluxes on boundary layer properties (the atmospheric leg of land–atmosphere coupling) and may overrepresent the connection between soil moisture and surface fluxes (the terrestrial leg). Models generally underrepresent spatial and temporal variability relative to observations, which is at least partially an artifact of the differences in spatial scale between model grid boxes and flux tower footprints. All models bias high in near-surface humidity and downward shortwave radiation, struggle to represent precipitation accurately, and show serious problems in reproducing surface albedos. These errors create challenges for models to partition surface energy properly, and errors are traceable through the surface energy and water cycles. The spatial distribution of the amplitude and phase of annual cycles (first harmonic) are generally well reproduced, but the biases in means tend to reflect in these amplitudes. Interannual variability is also a challenge for models to reproduce. Although the models validate better against Bowen-ratio-corrected surface flux observations, which allow for closure of surface energy balances at flux tower sites, it is not clear whether the corrected fluxes are more representative of actual fluxes. The analysis illuminates targets for coupled land–atmosphere model development, as well as the value of long-term globally distributed observational monitoring.

Open access
Paul A. Dirmeyer, Jiexia Wu, Holly E. Norton, Wouter A. Dorigo, Steven M. Quiring, Trenton W. Ford, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Michael G. Bosilovich, Michael B. Ek, Randal D. Koster, Gianpaolo Balsamo, and David M. Lawrence

Abstract

Four land surface models in uncoupled and coupled configurations are compared to observations of daily soil moisture from 19 networks in the conterminous United States to determine the viability of such comparisons and explore the characteristics of model and observational data. First, observations are analyzed for error characteristics and representation of spatial and temporal variability. Some networks have multiple stations within an area comparable to model grid boxes; for those it is found that aggregation of stations before calculation of statistics has little effect on estimates of variance, but soil moisture memory is sensitive to aggregation. Statistics for some networks stand out as unlike those of their neighbors, likely because of differences in instrumentation, calibration, and maintenance. Buried sensors appear to have less random error than near-field remote sensing techniques, and heat-dissipation sensors show less temporal variability than other types. Model soil moistures are evaluated using three metrics: standard deviation in time, temporal correlation (memory), and spatial correlation (length scale). Models do relatively well in capturing large-scale variability of metrics across climate regimes, but they poorly reproduce observed patterns at scales of hundreds of kilometers and smaller. Uncoupled land models do no better than coupled model configurations, nor do reanalyses outperform free-running models. Spatial decorrelation scales are found to be difficult to diagnose. Using data for model validation, calibration, or data assimilation from multiple soil moisture networks with different types of sensors and measurement techniques requires great caution. Data from models and observations should be put on the same spatial and temporal scales before comparison.

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Takamichi Iguchi, Wei-Kuo Tao, Di Wu, Christa Peters-Lidard, Joseph A. Santanello, Eric Kemp, Yudong Tian, Jonathan Case, Weile Wang, Robert Ferraro, Duane Waliser, Jinwon Kim, Huikyo Lee, Bin Guan, Baijun Tian, and Paul Loikith

Abstract

This study investigates the sensitivity of daily rainfall rates in regional seasonal simulations over the contiguous United States (CONUS) to different cumulus parameterization schemes. Daily rainfall fields were simulated at 24-km resolution using the NASA-Unified Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) Model for June–August 2000. Four cumulus parameterization schemes and two options for shallow cumulus components in a specific scheme were tested. The spread in the domain-mean rainfall rates across the parameterization schemes was generally consistent between the entire CONUS and most subregions. The selection of the shallow cumulus component in a specific scheme had more impact than that of the four cumulus parameterization schemes. Regional variability in the performance of each scheme was assessed by calculating optimally weighted ensembles that minimize full root-mean-square errors against reference datasets. The spatial pattern of the seasonally averaged rainfall was insensitive to the selection of cumulus parameterization over mountainous regions because of the topographical pattern constraint, so that the simulation errors were mostly attributed to the overall bias there. In contrast, the spatial patterns over the Great Plains regions as well as the temporal variation over most parts of the CONUS were relatively sensitive to cumulus parameterization selection. Overall, adopting a single simulation result was preferable to generating a better ensemble for the seasonally averaged daily rainfall simulation, as long as their overall biases had the same positive or negative sign. However, an ensemble of multiple simulation results was more effective in reducing errors in the case of also considering temporal variation.

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