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  • Author or Editor: Ernesto Hugo Berbery x
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Eli J. Dennis and Ernesto Hugo Berbery


Soil hydraulic properties are critical in estimating surface and subsurface processes, including surface fluxes, the distribution of soil moisture, and the extraction of water by root systems. In most numerical weather and climate models, those properties are assigned using maps of soil texture complemented by look-up tables. Comparison of two widely used soil texture databases, the USDA State Soil Geographic database (STATSGO) and Beijing Normal University’s soil texture database (GSDE), reveals that differences are widespread and can be spatially coherent over large areas that can eventually lead to regional climate differences. For instance, over the U.S. Great Plains, GSDE stipulates finer soil grains than STATSGO, while the opposite is true over central Mexico. In this study, we employ the WRF/CLM4 modeling suite to investigate the sensitivity of the simulated regional climate to changes in the prescribed soil maps. Wherever GSDE has finer grains than STATSGO (e.g., over the U.S. Great Plains), the soil retains water more strongly, as evidenced by smaller latent heat flux (−20 W m−2), larger sensible heat flux (+20 W m−2), and correspondingly, a decrease in the 2-m humidity (−1 g kg−1) and an increase in 2-m temperature (+1.5 K). The opposite behavior is found over areas of coarser grains in GSDE (e.g., over central Mexico). Further, the changes in surface fluxes via soil texture lead to differences in the thermodynamic structure of the PBL. Results suggest that neither soil hydraulic properties nor soil moisture solely dictate the strength of surface fluxes, but in combination they alter the land–atmosphere coupling in nontrivial ways.

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Seung-Jae Lee and Ernesto Hugo Berbery


Deforestation and replacement of natural pastures by agriculture have become a common practice in the La Plata River basin in South America. The changes in land cover imply changes in the biophysical properties of the land surface, with possible impacts on the basin’s hydroclimate. To help understand to what extent the climate could be affected, and through which processes, ensembles of seasonal simulations were prepared using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model for a control case and a scenario assuming an expansion of the agricultural activities to cover the entire basin. The La Plata River basin shows different climate responses to the land cover changes depending on the region. The northern part of the basin, where forests and savanna were replaced by crops, experiences an overall increase in albedo that leads to a reduction of sensible heat flux and near-surface temperature. A reduction of surface roughness length leads to stronger low-level winds that, in turn, favor a larger amount of moisture being advected out of the northern part of the basin. The result is a reduction of the vertically integrated moisture flux convergence (VIMFC) and, consequently, in precipitation. In the southern part of the basin, changes from grasslands to crops reduce the albedo and thus increase the near-surface temperature. The reduction in surface roughness length is not as large as in the northern sector, reducing the northerly moisture fluxes and resulting in a net increase of VIMFC and, thus, in precipitation. Notably, advective processes modify the downstream circulation and precipitation patterns over the South Atlantic Ocean.

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Anna A. Sörensson and Ernesto Hugo Berbery


This work examines the evolution of soil moisture initialization biases and their effects on seasonal forecasts depending on the season and vegetation type for a regional model over the La Plata basin in South America. WRF–Noah simulations covering multiple cases during a 2-yr period are designed to emphasize the conceptual nature of the simulations at the expense of the statistical significance of the results. Analysis of the surface climate shows that the seasonal predictive skill is higher when the model is initialized during the wet season and the initial soil moisture differences are small. Large soil moisture biases introduce large surface temperature biases, particularly for savanna, grassland, and cropland vegetation covers at any time of the year, thus introducing uncertainty in the surface climate. Regions with evergreen broadleaf forest have roots that extend to the deep layer whose moisture content affects the surface temperature through changes in the partitioning of the surface fluxes. The uncertainties of monthly maximum temperature can reach several degrees Celsius during the dry season in cases when 1) the soil is much wetter in the reanalysis than in the WRF–Noah equilibrium soil moisture and 2) the memory of the initial value is long because of scarce rainfall and low temperatures. This study suggests that responses of the atmosphere to soil moisture initialization depend on how the initial wet and dry conditions are defined, stressing the need to take into account the characteristics of a particular region and season when defining soil moisture initialization experiments.

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Ernesto Hugo Berbery and Vicente R. Barros


The main components of the hydrologic cycle of the La Plata basin in southeastern South America are investigated using a combination of observations, satellite products, and National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) global reanalyses. La Plata basin is second only to the Amazon basin in South America in river discharge and size and plays a critical role in the economies of the region. It is a primary factor in energy production, water resources, transportation, agriculture, and livestock.

Of particular interest was the evaluation of the annual cycle of the hydrologic cycle components. The La Plata annual-mean river discharge is about 21 000 m3 s−1, and the amplitude of its mean annual cycle is small: it is slightly larger during late summer, but continues with large volumes even during winter. The reason for this is that different precipitation regimes over different locations contribute to the total river discharge. One regime is found toward the northern boundary, where precipitation peaks during summer in association with the southernmost extension of the monsoon system. A second one is found over the central part of the basin, where precipitation peaks at different times in the seasonal cycle. Further analysis of the main tributaries of La Plata (Paraná, Uruguay, and Paraguay) reveals that each has a well-defined annual cycle but with different phases that can be traced primarily to each basin's physiography and precipitation regime.

Interannual and interdecadal variability of the basin's precipitation is amplified in the variability of streamflow by a factor of 2, implying a high sensitivity of the hydrologic system to climate changes like those observed in the last few decades. This becomes more important when considering the large variability of streamflow: for example, the historical maxima of river discharge during the year following the onset of El Niño can triple the typical mean river discharge.

A crucial component of the atmospheric water cycle, the low-level jet east of the Andes, supplies moisture from tropical South America to La Plata basin throughout the year. In lower latitudes, the jet has the greatest intensity during summer, but south of about 15°S there is a phase shift and the largest moisture fluxes are found during winter and spring. This is an uncommon feature not observed in other regions like the Great Plains of the United States, where the low-level jet develops only during the warm season.

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