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Michael F. Jasinski, Jordan S. Borak, Sujay V. Kumar, David M. Mocko, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Matthew Rodell, Hualan Rui, Hiroko K. Beaudoing, Bruce E. Vollmer, Kristi R. Arsenault, Bailing Li, John D. Bolten, and Natthachet Tangdamrongsub

Abstract

Terrestrial hydrologic trends over the conterminous United States are estimated for 1980–2015 using the National Climate Assessment Land Data Assimilation System (NCA-LDAS) reanalysis. NCA-LDAS employs the uncoupled Noah version 3.3 land surface model at 0.125° × 0.125° forced with NLDAS-2 meteorology, rescaled Climate Prediction Center precipitation, and assimilated satellite-based soil moisture, snow depth, and irrigation products. Mean annual trends are reported using the nonparametric Mann–Kendall test at p < 0.1 significance. Results illustrate the interrelationship between regional gradients in forcing trends and trends in other land energy and water stores and fluxes. Mean precipitation trends range from +3 to +9 mm yr−1 in the upper Great Plains and Northeast to −1 to −9 mm yr−1 in the West and South, net radiation flux trends range from +0.05 to +0.20 W m−2 yr−1 in the East to −0.05 to −0.20 W m−2 yr−1 in the West, and U.S.-wide temperature trends average about +0.03 K yr−1. Trends in soil moisture, snow cover, latent and sensible heat fluxes, and runoff are consistent with forcings, contributing to increasing evaporative fraction trends from west to east. Evaluation of NCA-LDAS trends compared to independent data indicates mixed results. The RMSE of U.S.-wide trends in number of snow cover days improved from 3.13 to 2.89 days yr−1 while trend detection increased 11%. Trends in latent heat flux were hardly affected, with RMSE decreasing only from 0.17 to 0.16 W m−2 yr−1, while trend detection increased 2%. NCA-LDAS runoff trends degraded significantly from 2.6 to 16.1 mm yr−1 while trend detection was unaffected. Analysis also indicated that NCA-LDAS exhibits relatively more skill in low precipitation station density areas, suggesting there are limits to the effectiveness of satellite data assimilation in densely gauged regions. Overall, NCA-LDAS demonstrates capability for quantifying physically consistent, U.S. hydrologic climate trends over the satellite era.

Open access