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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Joshua Roundy, and Paul A. Dirmeyer

Abstract

The coupling of the land with the planetary boundary layer (PBL) on diurnal time scales is critical to regulating the strength of the connection between soil moisture and precipitation. To improve understanding of land–atmosphere (L–A) interactions, recent studies have focused on the development of diagnostics to quantify the strength and accuracy of the land–PBL coupling at the process level. In this paper, the authors apply a suite of local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) metrics to modern reanalysis (RA) products and observations during a 17-yr period over the U.S. southern Great Plains. Specifically, a range of diagnostics exploring the links between soil moisture, evaporation, PBL height, temperature, humidity, and precipitation is applied to the summertime monthly mean diurnal cycles of the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR), Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), and Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR). Results show that CFSR is the driest and MERRA the wettest of the three RAs in terms of overall surface–PBL coupling. When compared against observations, CFSR has a significant dry bias that impacts all components of the land–PBL system. CFSR and NARR are more similar in terms of PBL dynamics and response to dry and wet extremes, while MERRA is more constrained in terms of evaporation and PBL variability. Each RA has a unique land–PBL coupling that has implications for downstream impacts on the diurnal cycle of PBL evolution, clouds, convection, and precipitation as well as representation of extremes and drought. As a result, caution should be used when treating RAs as truth in terms of their water and energy cycle processes.

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