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Douglas B. Clark, Christopher M. Taylor, and Alan J. Thorpe

Abstract

The surface fluxes of heat and moisture in semiarid regions are sensitive to spatial variability of soil moisture caused by convective rainfall. Under conditions typical of the Sahel, this variability may persist for several days after a storm, during which time it modifies the overlying boundary layer. A model of the land surface is used to quantify the dependence of surface fluxes of heat and moisture on antecedent rainfall amount, time since rainfall, and surface properties. Next, a coupled model of the land and atmosphere is used to characterize the boundary layer variability that results from this surface variability, and its dependence on factors including the length scale of the surface variability. Finally, two- and three-dimensional modeling of squall lines is used to examine the sensitivity of rainfall to boundary layer variability. Boundary layer variability tends to be greater for surface variability on long length scales, but squall-line rainfall shows the strongest response for anomalies on small length scales, comparable to that of the convection. As a result, the feedback between soil moisture and rainfall will be strongest at an intermediate scale.

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Christel Prudhomme, Simon Parry, Jamie Hannaford, Douglas B. Clark, Stefan Hagemann, and Frank Voss

Abstract

This paper presents a new methodology for assessing the ability of gridded hydrological models to reproduce large-scale hydrological high and low flow events (as a proxy for hydrological extremes) as described by catalogues of historical droughts [using the regional deficiency index (RDI)] and high flows [regional flood index (RFI)] previously derived from river flow measurements across Europe. Using the same methods, total runoff simulated by three global hydrological models from the Water Model Intercomparison Project (WaterMIP) [Joint U.K. Land Environment Simulator (JULES), Water Global Assessment and Prognosis (WaterGAP), and Max Planck Institute Hydrological Model (MPI-HM)] run with the same meteorological input (watch forcing data) at the same spatial 0.5° grid was used to calculate simulated RDI and RFI for the period 1963–2001 in the same European regions, directly comparable with the observed catalogues. Observed and simulated RDI and RFI time series were compared using three performance measures: the relative mean error, the ratio between the standard deviation of simulated over observed series, and the Spearman correlation coefficient. Results show that all models can broadly reproduce the spatiotemporal evolution of hydrological extremes in Europe to varying degrees. JULES tends to produce prolonged, highly spatially coherent events for both high and low flows, with events developing more slowly and reaching and sustaining greater spatial coherence than observed—this could be due to runoff being dominated by slow-responding subsurface flow. In contrast, MPI-HM shows very high variability in the simulated RDI and RFI time series and a more rapid onset of extreme events than observed, in particular for regions with significant water storage capacity—this could be due to possible underrepresentation of infiltration and groundwater storage, with soil saturation reached too quickly. WaterGAP shares some of the issues of variability with MPI-HM—also attributed to insufficient soil storage capacity and surplus effective precipitation being generated as surface runoff—and some strong spatial coherence of simulated events with JULES, but neither of these are dominant. Of the three global models considered here, WaterGAP is arguably best suited to reproduce most regional characteristics of large-scale high and low flow events in Europe. Some systematic weaknesses emerge in all models, in particular for high flows, which could be a product of poor spatial resolution of the input climate data (e.g., where extreme precipitation is driven by local convective storms) or topography. Overall, this study has demonstrated that RDI and RFI are powerful tools that can be used to assess how well large-scale hydrological models reproduce large-scale hydrological extremes—an exercise rarely undertaken in model intercomparisons.

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Richard J. Ellis, Christopher M. Taylor, Graham P. Weedon, Nicola Gedney, Douglas B. Clark, and Sietse Los

Abstract

A critical function of a land surface scheme, used in climate and weather prediction models, is to partition the energy from insolation into sensible and latent heat fluxes. Many use a soil moisture function to control the surface moisture fluxes through the transpiration. The validity and global distribution of the parameters used to calculate this soil moisture stress function are difficult to assess.

This work presents a method to map soil moisture stress globally from an earth observation vegetation index and precipitation data, and it compares the resulting distributions with output from the Joint U.K. Land Environment Simulator (JULES) land surface scheme. A number of model runs with different soil and vegetation parameters are compared. These examine the sensitivity of the seasonality of soil moisture stress, within the model, to the parameterization of soil hydraulic properties and the seasonality of leaf area index in the vegetation.

It is found that the seasonality of soil moisture within the model is more sensitive to the soil hydraulic properties than the leaf area index. The partitioning of throughfall into evaporation and runoff, in the model, is the dominant factor in determining the timing of soil moisture stress.

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Douglas B. Clark, Yongkang Xue, Richard J. Harding, and Paul J. Valdes

Abstract

Degradation of the land surface has been suggested as a cause of persistent drought in tropical north Africa. A general circulation model is used to assess the impact of degradation of five regions within tropical north Africa. Idealized degradation scenarios are used since existing observations are inadequate to determine the extent and severity of historical degradation. It is found that the impact of degradation varies between the regions. The greatest effects are found from degradation of the Sahel or West Africa, which result in substantial reduction of precipitation over the degraded area. Both surface evaporation and atmospheric moisture convergence are reduced. In the Sahelian case the precipitation reduction extends well to the south of the area of changed land surface. The occurrence of easterly wave disturbances is not altered by degradation, but the mean rainfall from each event is reduced. Degradation of an area in eastern north Africa results in smaller reductions of precipitation and moisture convergence. Finally, degradation of a southern area next to the Gulf of Guinea has little effect on precipitation because of a compensatory increase of moisture convergence. The simulated rainfall reduction following degradation of the Sahel is comparable to observed changes in recent decades, suggesting that degradation may have contributed to that change.

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Lukas Gudmundsson, Lena M. Tallaksen, Kerstin Stahl, Douglas B. Clark, Egon Dumont, Stefan Hagemann, Nathalie Bertrand, Dieter Gerten, Jens Heinke, Naota Hanasaki, Frank Voss, and Sujan Koirala

Abstract

Large-scale hydrological models describing the terrestrial water balance at continental and global scales are increasingly being used in earth system modeling and climate impact assessments. However, because of incomplete process understanding and limits of the forcing data, model simulations remain uncertain. To quantify this uncertainty a multimodel ensemble of nine large-scale hydrological models was compared to observed runoff from 426 small catchments in Europe. The ensemble was built within the framework of the European Union Water and Global Change (WATCH) project. The models were driven with the same atmospheric forcing data. Models were evaluated with respect to their ability to capture the interannual variability of spatially aggregated annual time series of five runoff percentiles—derived from daily time series—including annual low and high flows. Overall, the models capture the interannual variability of low, mean, and high flows well. However, errors in the mean and standard deviation, as well as differences in performance between the models, became increasingly pronounced for low runoff percentiles, reflecting the uncertainty associated with the representation of hydrological processes, such as the depletion of soil moisture stores. The large spread in model performance implies that any single model should be applied with caution as there is a great risk of biased conclusions. However, this large spread is contrasted by the good overall performance of the ensemble mean. It is concluded that the ensemble mean is a pragmatic and reliable estimator of spatially aggregated time series of annual low, mean, and high flows across Europe.

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Ingjerd Haddeland, Douglas B. Clark, Wietse Franssen, Fulco Ludwig, Frank Voß, Nigel W. Arnell, Nathalie Bertrand, Martin Best, Sonja Folwell, Dieter Gerten, Sandra Gomes, Simon N. Gosling, Stefan Hagemann, Naota Hanasaki, Richard Harding, Jens Heinke, Pavel Kabat, Sujan Koirala, Taikan Oki, Jan Polcher, Tobias Stacke, Pedro Viterbo, Graham P. Weedon, and Pat Yeh

Abstract

Six land surface models and five global hydrological models participate in a model intercomparison project [Water Model Intercomparison Project (WaterMIP)], which for the first time compares simulation results of these different classes of models in a consistent way. In this paper, the simulation setup is described and aspects of the multimodel global terrestrial water balance are presented. All models were run at 0.5° spatial resolution for the global land areas for a 15-yr period (1985–99) using a newly developed global meteorological dataset. Simulated global terrestrial evapotranspiration, excluding Greenland and Antarctica, ranges from 415 to 586 mm yr−1 (from 60 000 to 85 000 km3 yr−1), and simulated runoff ranges from 290 to 457 mm yr−1 (from 42 000 to 66 000 km3 yr−1). Both the mean and median runoff fractions for the land surface models are lower than those of the global hydrological models, although the range is wider. Significant simulation differences between land surface and global hydrological models are found to be caused by the snow scheme employed. The physically based energy balance approach used by land surface models generally results in lower snow water equivalent values than the conceptual degree-day approach used by global hydrological models. Some differences in simulated runoff and evapotranspiration are explained by model parameterizations, although the processes included and parameterizations used are not distinct to either land surface models or global hydrological models. The results show that differences between models are a major source of uncertainty. Climate change impact studies thus need to use not only multiple climate models but also some other measure of uncertainty (e.g., multiple impact models).

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