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Ben Livneh, Eric A. Rosenberg, Chiyu Lin, Bart Nijssen, Vimal Mishra, Kostas M. Andreadis, Edwin P. Maurer, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

This paper describes a publicly available, long-term (1915–2011), hydrologically consistent dataset for the conterminous United States, intended to aid in studies of water and energy exchanges at the land surface. These data are gridded at a spatial resolution of latitude/longitude and are derived from daily temperature and precipitation observations from approximately 20 000 NOAA Cooperative Observer (COOP) stations. The available meteorological data include temperature, precipitation, and wind, as well as derived humidity and downwelling solar and infrared radiation estimated via algorithms that index these quantities to the daily mean temperature, temperature range, and precipitation, and disaggregate them to 3-hourly time steps. Furthermore, the authors employ the variable infiltration capacity (VIC) model to produce 3-hourly estimates of soil moisture, snow water equivalent, discharge, and surface heat fluxes. Relative to an earlier similar dataset by Maurer and others, the improved dataset has 1) extended the period of analysis (1915–2011 versus 1950–2000), 2) increased the spatial resolution from ⅛° to , and 3) used an updated version of VIC. The previous dataset has been widely used in water and energy budget studies, climate change assessments, drought reconstructions, and for many other purposes. It is anticipated that the spatial refinement and temporal extension will be of interest to a wide cross section of the scientific community.

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Bart Nijssen, Shraddhanand Shukla, Chiyu Lin, Huilin Gao, Tian Zhou, Ishottama, Justin Sheffield, Eric F. Wood, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The implementation of a multimodel drought monitoring system is described, which provides near-real-time estimates of surface moisture storage for the global land areas between 50°S and 50°N with a time lag of about 1 day. Near-real-time forcings are derived from satellite-based precipitation estimates and modeled air temperatures. The system distinguishes itself from other operational systems in that it uses multiple land surface models (Variable Infiltration Capacity, Noah, and Sacramento) to simulate surface moisture storage, which are then combined to derive a multimodel estimate of drought. A comparison of the results with other historic and current drought estimates demonstrates that near-real-time nowcasting of global drought conditions based on satellite and model forcings is entirely feasible. However, challenges remain because hydrological droughts are inherently defined in the context of a long-term climatology. Changes in observing platforms can be misinterpreted as droughts (or as excessively wet periods). This problem cannot simply be addressed through the addition of more observations or through the development of new observing platforms. Instead, it will require careful (re)construction of long-term records that are updated in near–real time in a consistent manner so that changes in surface meteorological forcings reflect actual conditions rather than changes in methods or sources.

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