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Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, David Mocko, and Yudong Tian

Abstract

The downwelling shortwave radiation on the earth’s land surface is affected by the terrain characteristics of slope and aspect. These adjustments, in turn, impact the evolution of snow over such terrain. This article presents a multiscale evaluation of the impact of terrain-based adjustments to incident shortwave radiation on snow simulations over two midlatitude regions using two versions of the Noah land surface model (LSM). The evaluation is performed by comparing the snow cover simulations against the 500-m Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) snow cover product. The model simulations are evaluated using categorical measures, such as the probability of detection of “yes” events (PODy), which measure the fraction of snow cover presence that was correctly simulated, and false alarm ratio (FAR), which measures the fraction of no-snow events that was incorrectly simulated. The results indicate that the terrain-based correction of radiation leads to systematic improvements in the snow cover estimates in both domains and in both LSM versions (with roughly 12% overall improvement in PODy and 5% improvement in FAR), with larger improvements observed during snow accumulation and melt periods. Increased contribution to PODy and FAR improvements is observed over the north- and south-facing slopes, when the overall improvements are stratified to the four cardinal aspect categories. A two-dimensional discrete Haar wavelet analysis for the two study areas indicates that the PODy improvements in snow cover estimation drop to below 10% at scales coarser than 16 km, whereas the FAR improvements are below 10% at scales coarser than 4 km.

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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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Jinwoong Yoo, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Marshall Shepherd, Sujay Kumar, Patricia Lawston, and Andrew M. Thomas

Abstract

An investigation of Tropical Cyclone (TC) Kelvin in February 2018 over northeast Australia was conducted to understand the mechanisms of the brown ocean effect (BOE) and to develop a comprehensive analysis framework for landfalling TCs in the process. NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) coupled to the NASA Unified WRF (NU-WRF) system was employed as the numerical model framework for 12 land/soil moisture perturbation experiments. Impacts of soil moisture and surface enthalpy flux conditions on TC Kelvin were investigated by closely evaluating simulated track and intensity, midlevel atmospheric thermodynamic properties, vertical wind shear, total precipitable water (TPW), and surface moisture flux. The results suggest that there were recognized differentiations among the sensitivity simulations as a result of land surface (e.g., soil moisture and texture) conditions. However, the intensification of TC Kelvin over land was more strongly related to atmospheric moisture advection and the diurnal cycle of solar radiation (i.e., radiative cooling) than to overall soil moisture conditions or surface fluxes. The analysis framework employed here for TC Kelvin can serve as a foundation to specifically quantify the factors governing the BOE. It also demonstrates that the BOE is not a binary influence (i.e., all or nothing), but instead operates in a continuum from largely to minimally influential such that it could be utilized to help improve prediction of inland effects for all landfalling TCs.

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Jonathan L. Case, Sujay V. Kumar, Jayanthi Srikishen, and Gary J. Jedlovec

Abstract

It is hypothesized that high-resolution, accurate representations of surface properties such as soil moisture and sea surface temperature are necessary to improve simulations of summertime pulse-type convective precipitation in high-resolution models. This paper presents model verification results of a case study period from June to August 2008 over the southeastern United States using the Weather Research and Forecasting numerical weather prediction model. Experimental simulations initialized with high-resolution land surface fields from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Land Information System (LIS) and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are compared to a set of control simulations initialized with interpolated fields from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s (NCEP) 12-km North American Mesoscale model. The LIS land surface and MODIS SSTs provide a more detailed surface initialization at a resolution comparable to the 4-km model grid spacing. Soil moisture from the LIS spinup run is shown to respond better to the extreme rainfall of Tropical Storm Fay in August 2008 over the Florida peninsula. The LIS has slightly lower errors and higher anomaly correlations in the top soil layer but exhibits a stronger dry bias in the root zone. The model sensitivity to the alternative surface initial conditions is examined for a sample case, showing that the LIS–MODIS data substantially impact surface and boundary layer properties. The Developmental Testbed Center’s Meteorological Evaluation Tools package is employed to produce verification statistics, including traditional gridded precipitation verification and output statistics from the Method for Object-Based Diagnostic Evaluation (MODE) tool. The LIS–MODIS initialization is found to produce small improvements in the skill scores of 1-h accumulated precipitation during the forecast hours of the peak diurnal convective cycle. Because there is very little union in time and space between the forecast and observed precipitation systems, results from the MODE object verification are examined to relax the stringency of traditional gridpoint precipitation verification. The MODE results indicate that the LIS–MODIS-initialized model runs increase the 10 mm h−1 matched object areas (“hits”) while simultaneously decreasing the unmatched object areas (“misses” plus “false alarms”) during most of the peak convective forecast hours, with statistically significant improvements of up to 5%. Simulated 1-h precipitation objects in the LIS–MODIS runs more closely resemble the observed objects, particularly at higher accumulation thresholds. Despite the small improvements, however, the overall low verification scores indicate that much uncertainty still exists in simulating the processes responsible for airmass-type convective precipitation systems in convection-allowing models.

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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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Grey S. Nearing, David M. Mocko, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Sujay V. Kumar, and Youlong Xia

Abstract

Model benchmarking allows us to separate uncertainty in model predictions caused by model inputs from uncertainty due to model structural error. This method is extended with a “large sample” approach (using data from multiple field sites) to measure prediction uncertainty caused by errors in 1) forcing data, 2) model parameters, and 3) model structure, and use it to compare the efficiency of soil moisture state and evapotranspiration flux predictions made by the four land surface models in phase 2 of the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS-2). Parameters dominated uncertainty in soil moisture estimates and forcing data dominated uncertainty in evapotranspiration estimates; however, the models themselves used only a fraction of the information available to them. This means that there is significant potential to improve all three components of NLDAS-2. In particular, continued work toward refining the parameter maps and lookup tables, the forcing data measurement and processing, and also the land surface models themselves, has potential to result in improved estimates of surface mass and energy balances.

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

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The inherent coupled nature of earth’s energy and water cycles places significant importance on the proper representation and diagnosis of land–atmosphere (LA) interactions in hydrometeorological prediction models. However, the precise nature of the soil moisture–precipitation relationship at the local scale is largely determined by a series of nonlinear processes and feedbacks that are difficult to quantify. To quantify the strength of the local LA coupling (LoCo), this process chain must be considered both in full and as individual components through their relationships and sensitivities. To address this, recent modeling and diagnostic studies have been extended to 1) quantify the processes governing LoCo utilizing the thermodynamic properties of mixing diagrams, and 2) diagnose the sensitivity of coupled systems, including clouds and moist processes, to perturbations in soil moisture. This work employs NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) coupled to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model and simulations performed over the U.S. Southern Great Plains. The behavior of different planetary boundary layers (PBL) and land surface scheme couplings in LIS–WRF are examined in the context of the evolution of thermodynamic quantities that link the surface soil moisture condition to the PBL regime, clouds, and precipitation. Specifically, the tendency toward saturation in the PBL is quantified by the lifting condensation level (LCL) deficit and addressed as a function of time and space. The sensitivity of the LCL deficit to the soil moisture condition is indicative of the strength of LoCo, where both positive and negative feedbacks can be identified. Overall, this methodology can be applied to any model or observations and is a crucial step toward improved evaluation and quantification of LoCo within models, particularly given the advent of next-generation satellite measurements of PBL and land surface properties along with advances in data assimilation schemes.

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Rolf H. Reichle, Sujay V. Kumar, Sarith P. P. Mahanama, Randal D. Koster, and Q. Liu

Abstract

Land surface (or “skin”) temperature (LST) lies at the heart of the surface energy balance and is a key variable in weather and climate models. In this research LST retrievals from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) are assimilated into the Noah land surface model and Catchment land surface model (CLSM) using an ensemble-based, offline land data assimilation system. LST is described very differently in the two models. A priori scaling and dynamic bias estimation approaches are applied because satellite and model LSTs typically exhibit different mean values and variabilities. Performance is measured against 27 months of in situ measurements from the Coordinated Energy and Water Cycle Observations Project at 48 stations. LST estimates from Noah and CLSM without data assimilation (“open loop”) are comparable to each other and superior to ISCCP retrievals. For LST, the RMSE values are 4.9 K (CLSM), 5.5 K (Noah), and 7.6 K (ISCCP), and the anomaly correlation coefficients (R) are 0.61 (CLSM), 0.63 (Noah), and 0.52 (ISCCP). Assimilation of ISCCP retrievals provides modest yet statistically significant improvements (over an open loop, as indicated by nonoverlapping 95% confidence intervals) of up to 0.7 K in RMSE and 0.05 in the anomaly R. The skill of the latent and sensible heat flux estimates from the assimilation integrations is essentially identical to the corresponding open loop skill. Noah assimilation estimates of ground heat flux, however, can be significantly worse than open loop estimates. Provided the assimilation system is properly adapted to each land model, the benefits from the assimilation of LST retrievals are comparable for both models.

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David M. Mocko, Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Shugong Wang

Abstract

This study presents an evaluation of the impact of vegetation conditions on a land surface model (LSM) simulation of agricultural drought. The Noah-MP LSM is used to simulate water and energy fluxes and states, which are transformed into drought categories using percentiles over the continental United States from 1979 to 2017. Leaf area index (LAI) observations are assimilated into the dynamic vegetation scheme of Noah-MP. A weekly operational drought monitor (the U.S. Drought Monitor) is used for the evaluation. The results show that LAI assimilation into Noah-MP’s dynamic vegetation scheme improves the model’s ability to represent drought, particularly over cropland areas. LAI assimilation improves the simulation of the drought category, detection of drought conditions, and reduces the instances of drought false alarms. The assimilation of LAI in these locations not only corrects model errors in the simulation of vegetation, but also can help to represent unmodeled physical processes such as irrigation toward improved simulation of agricultural drought.

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Augusto Getirana, Matthew Rodell, Sujay Kumar, Hiroko Kato Beaudoing, Kristi Arsenault, Benjamin Zaitchik, Himanshu Save, and Srinivas Bettadpur

Abstract

We evaluate the impact of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data assimilation (GRACE-DA) on seasonal hydrological forecast initialization over the United States, focusing on groundwater storage. GRACE-based terrestrial water storage (TWS) estimates are assimilated into a land surface model for the 2003–16 period. Three-month hindcast (i.e., forecast of past events) simulations are initialized using states from the reference (no data assimilation) and GRACE-DA runs. Differences between the two initial hydrological condition (IHC) sets are evaluated for two forecast techniques at 305 wells where depth to water table measurements are available. Results show that using GRACE-DA-based IHC improves seasonal groundwater forecast performance in terms of both RMSE and correlation. While most regions show improvement, degradation is common in the High Plains, where withdrawals for irrigation practices affect groundwater variability more strongly than the weather variability, which demonstrates the need for simulating such activities. These findings contribute to recent efforts toward an improved U.S. drought monitoring and forecast system.

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