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Victoria A. Bell, Nicola Gedney, Alison L. Kay, Roderick N. B. Smith, Richard G. Jones, and Robert J. Moore

Abstract

River basin managers concerned with maintaining water supplies and mitigating flood risk in the face of climate change are taking outputs from climate models and using them in hydrological models for assessment purposes. While precipitation is the main output used, evaporation is attracting increasing attention because of its significance to the water balance of river basins. Climate models provide estimates of actual evaporation that are consistent with their simplified land surface schemes but do not naturally provide the estimates of potential evaporation (PE) commonly required as input to hydrological models. There are clear advantages in using PE estimates controlled by atmospheric forcings when using stand-alone hydrological models with integral soil-moisture accounting schemes. The atmosphere–land decoupling approximation that PE provides can prove to be of further benefit if it is possible to account for the effect of different, or changing, land cover on PE outside of the climate model. The methods explored here estimate Penman–Monteith PE from vegetated surfaces using outputs from climate models that have an embedded land surface scheme. The land surface scheme enables an examination of the dependence of canopy stomatal resistance on atmospheric composition, and the sensitivity of PE estimates to the choice of canopy resistance values under current and changing climates is demonstrated. The conclusions have practical value for climate change impact studies relating to flood, drought, and water management applications.

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Rolf H. Reichle, Gabrielle J. M. De Lannoy, Qing Liu, Randal D. Koster, John S. Kimball, Wade T. Crow, Joseph V. Ardizzone, Purnendu Chakraborty, Douglas W. Collins, Austin L. Conaty, Manuela Girotto, Lucas A. Jones, Jana Kolassa, Hans Lievens, Robert A. Lucchesi, and Edmond B. Smith

Abstract

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission Level-4 Soil Moisture (L4_SM) product provides 3-hourly, 9-km resolution, global estimates of surface (0–5 cm) and root-zone (0–100 cm) soil moisture and related land surface variables from 31 March 2015 to present with ~2.5-day latency. The ensemble-based L4_SM algorithm assimilates SMAP brightness temperature (Tb) observations into the Catchment land surface model. This study describes the spatially distributed L4_SM analysis and assesses the observation-minus-forecast (OF) Tb residuals and the soil moisture and temperature analysis increments. Owing to the climatological rescaling of the Tb observations prior to assimilation, the analysis is essentially unbiased, with global mean values of ~0.37 K for the OF Tb residuals and practically zero for the soil moisture and temperature increments. There are, however, modest regional (absolute) biases in the OF residuals (under ~3 K), the soil moisture increments (under ~0.01 m3 m−3), and the surface soil temperature increments (under ~1 K). Typical instantaneous values are ~6 K for OF residuals, ~0.01 (~0.003) m3 m−3 for surface (root zone) soil moisture increments, and ~0.6 K for surface soil temperature increments. The OF diagnostics indicate that the actual errors in the system are overestimated in deserts and densely vegetated regions and underestimated in agricultural regions and transition zones between dry and wet climates. The OF autocorrelations suggest that the SMAP observations are used efficiently in western North America, the Sahel, and Australia, but not in many forested regions and the high northern latitudes. A case study in Australia demonstrates that assimilating SMAP observations successfully corrects short-term errors in the L4_SM rainfall forcing.

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Christopher J. Anderson, Raymond W. Arritt, Zaitao Pan, Eugene S. Takle, William J. Gutowski Jr., Francis O. Otieno, Renato da Silva, Daniel Caya, Jens H. Christensen, Daniel Lüthi, Miguel A. Gaertner, Clemente Gallardo, Filippo Giorgi, René Laprise, Song-You Hong, Colin Jones, H-M. H. Juang, J. J. Katzfey, John L. McGregor, William M. Lapenta, Jay W. Larson, John A. Taylor, Glen E. Liston, Roger A. Pielke Sr., and John O. Roads

Abstract

Thirteen regional climate model (RCM) simulations of June–July 1993 were compared with each other and observations. Water vapor conservation and precipitation characteristics in each RCM were examined for a 10° × 10° subregion of the upper Mississippi River basin, containing the region of maximum 60-day accumulated precipitation in all RCMs and station reports.

All RCMs produced positive precipitation minus evapotranspiration (PE > 0), though most RCMs produced PE below the observed range. RCM recycling ratios were within the range estimated from observations. No evidence of common errors of E was found. In contrast, common dry bias of P was found in the simulations.

Daily cycles of terms in the water vapor conservation equation were qualitatively similar in most RCMs. Nocturnal maximums of P and C (convergence) occurred in 9 of 13 RCMs, consistent with observations. Three of the four driest simulations failed to couple P and C overnight, producing afternoon maximum P. Further, dry simulations tended to produce a larger fraction of their 60-day accumulated precipitation from low 3-h totals.

In station reports, accumulation from high (low) 3-h totals had a nocturnal (early morning) maximum. This time lag occurred, in part, because many mesoscale convective systems had reached peak intensity overnight and had declined in intensity by early morning. None of the RCMs contained such a time lag. It is recommended that short-period experiments be performed to examine the ability of RCMs to simulate mesoscale convective systems prior to generating long-period simulations for hydroclimatology.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Raymond W. Arritt, Sho Kawazoe, David M. Flory, Eugene S. Takle, Sébastien Biner, Daniel Caya, Richard G. Jones, René Laprise, L. Ruby Leung, Linda O. Mearns, Wilfran Moufouma-Okia, Ana M. B. Nunes, Yun Qian, John O. Roads, Lisa C. Sloan, and Mark A. Snyder

Abstract

This paper analyzes the ability of the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) ensemble of regional climate models to simulate extreme monthly precipitation and its supporting circulation for regions of North America, comparing 18 years of simulations driven by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–Department of Energy (DOE) reanalysis with observations. The analysis focuses on the wettest 10% of months during the cold half of the year (October–March), when it is assumed that resolved synoptic circulation governs precipitation. For a coastal California region where the precipitation is largely topographic, the models individually and collectively replicate well the monthly frequency of extremes, the amount of extreme precipitation, and the 500-hPa circulation anomaly associated with the extremes. The models also replicate very well the statistics of the interannual variability of occurrences of extremes. For an interior region containing the upper Mississippi River basin, where precipitation is more dependent on internally generated storms, the models agree with observations in both monthly frequency and magnitude, although not as closely as for coastal California. In addition, simulated circulation anomalies for extreme months are similar to those in observations. Each region has important seasonally varying precipitation processes that govern the occurrence of extremes in the observations, and the models appear to replicate well those variations.

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Rolf H. Reichle, Gabrielle J. M. De Lannoy, Qing Liu, Joseph V. Ardizzone, Andreas Colliander, Austin Conaty, Wade Crow, Thomas J. Jackson, Lucas A. Jones, John S. Kimball, Randal D. Koster, Sarith P. Mahanama, Edmond B. Smith, Aaron Berg, Simone Bircher, David Bosch, Todd G. Caldwell, Michael Cosh, Ángel González-Zamora, Chandra D. Holifield Collins, Karsten H. Jensen, Stan Livingston, Ernesto Lopez-Baeza, José Martínez-Fernández, Heather McNairn, Mahta Moghaddam, Anna Pacheco, Thierry Pellarin, John Prueger, Tracy Rowlandson, Mark Seyfried, Patrick Starks, Zhongbo Su, Marc Thibeault, Rogier van der Velde, Jeffrey Walker, Xiaoling Wu, and Yijian Zeng

Abstract

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission Level-4 Surface and Root-Zone Soil Moisture (L4_SM) data product is generated by assimilating SMAP L-band brightness temperature observations into the NASA Catchment land surface model. The L4_SM product is available from 31 March 2015 to present (within 3 days from real time) and provides 3-hourly, global, 9-km resolution estimates of surface (0–5 cm) and root-zone (0–100 cm) soil moisture and land surface conditions. This study presents an overview of the L4_SM algorithm, validation approach, and product assessment versus in situ measurements. Core validation sites provide spatially averaged surface (root zone) soil moisture measurements for 43 (17) “reference pixels” at 9- and 36-km gridcell scales located in 17 (7) distinct watersheds. Sparse networks provide point-scale measurements of surface (root zone) soil moisture at 406 (311) locations. Core validation site results indicate that the L4_SM product meets its soil moisture accuracy requirement, specified as an unbiased RMSE (ubRMSE, or standard deviation of the error) of 0.04 m3 m−3 or better. The ubRMSE for L4_SM surface (root zone) soil moisture is 0.038 m3 m−3 (0.030 m3 m−3) at the 9-km scale and 0.035 m3 m−3 (0.026 m3 m−3) at the 36-km scale. The L4_SM estimates improve (significantly at the 5% level for surface soil moisture) over model-only estimates, which do not benefit from the assimilation of SMAP brightness temperature observations and have a 9-km surface (root zone) ubRMSE of 0.042 m3 m−3 (0.032 m3 m−3). Time series correlations exhibit similar relative performance. The sparse network results corroborate these findings over a greater variety of climate and land cover conditions.

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