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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Mark A. Friedl, and Michael B. Ek

Abstract

The convective planetary boundary layer (PBL) integrates surface fluxes and conditions over regional and diurnal scales. As a result, the structure and evolution of the PBL contains information directly related to land surface states. To examine the nature and magnitude of land–atmosphere coupling and the interactions and feedbacks controlling PBL development, the authors used a large sample of radiosonde observations collected at the southern Atmospheric Research Measurement Program–Great Plains Cloud and Radiation Testbed (ARM-CART) site in association with simulations of mixed-layer growth from a single-column PBL/land surface model. The model accurately predicts PBL evolution and realistically simulates thermodynamics associated with two key controls on PBL growth: atmospheric stability and soil moisture. The information content of these variables and their influence on PBL height and screen-level temperature can be characterized using statistical methods to describe PBL–land surface coupling over a wide range of conditions. Results also show that the first-order effects of land–atmosphere coupling are manifested in the control of soil moisture and stability on atmospheric demand for evapotranspiration and on the surface energy balance. Two principal land–atmosphere feedback regimes observed during soil moisture drydown periods are identified that complicate direct relationships between PBL and land surface properties, and, as a result, limit the accuracy of uncoupled land surface and traditional PBL growth models. In particular, treatments for entrainment and the role of the residual mixed layer are critical to quantifying diurnal land–atmosphere interactions.

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Anil Kumar, Fei Chen, Michael Barlage, Michael B. Ek, and Dev Niyogi

Abstract

The impact of 8-day-averaged data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor—namely, the 1-km leaf area index, absorbed photosynthetic radiation, and land-use data—is investigated for use in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model for regional weather prediction. These high-resolution, near-real-time MODIS data are hypothesized to enhance the representation of land–atmosphere interactions and to potentially improve the WRF model forecast skill for temperature, surface moisture, surface fluxes, and soil temperature. To test this hypothesis, the impact of using MODIS-based land surface data on surface energy and water budgets was assessed within the “Noah” land surface model with two different canopy-resistance schemes. An ensemble of six model experiments was conducted using the WRF model for a typical summertime episode over the U.S. southern Great Plains that occurred during the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) field experiment. The six model experiments were statistically analyzed and showed some degree of improvement in surface latent heat flux and sensible heat flux, as well as surface temperature and moisture, after land use, leaf area index, and green vegetation fraction data were replaced by remotely sensed data. There was also an improvement in the WRF-simulated temperature and boundary layer moisture with MODIS data in comparison with the default U.S. Geological Survey land-use and leaf area index inputs. Overall, analysis suggests that recalibration and improvements to both the input data and the land model help to improve estimation of surface and soil parameters and boundary layer moisture and led to improvement in simulating convection in WRF runs. Incorporating updated land conditions provided the most notable improvements, and the mesoscale model performance could be further enhanced when improved land surface schemes become available.

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Robert J. Zamora, Edward P. Clark, Eric Rogers, Michael B. Ek, and Timothy M. Lahmers

Abstract

The NOAA Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) program has deployed a soil moisture observing network in the Babocomari River basin located in southeastern Arizona. The Babocomari River is a major tributary of the San Pedro River. At 0000 UTC 23 July 2008, the second-highest flow during the period of record was measured just upstream of the location where the Babocomari River joins the main channel of the San Pedro River.

Upper-air and surface meteorological observations and Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) satellite images of integrated water vapor were used to establish the synoptic and mesoscale conditions that existed before the flood occurred. The analysis indicates that a weak Gulf of California surge initiated by Hurricane Fausto transported a warm moist tropical air mass into the lower troposphere over southern Arizona, setting the stage for the intense, deep convection that initiated the flooding on the Babocomari River. Observations of soil moisture and precipitation at five locations in the basin and streamflow measured at two river gauging stations enabled the documentation of the hydrometeorological conditions that existed before the flooding occurred. The observations suggest that soil moisture conditions as a function of depth, the location of semi-impermeable layers of sedimentary rock known as caliche, and the spatial distribution of convective precipitation in the basin confined the flooding to the lower part of the basin. Finally, the HMT soil moisture observations are compared with soil moisture products from the NOAA/NWS/NCEP Noah land surface model.

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Ben Livneh, Youlong Xia, Kenneth E. Mitchell, Michael B. Ek, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

A negative snow water equivalent (SWE) bias in the snow model of the Noah land surface scheme used in the NCEP suite of numerical weather and climate prediction models has been noted by several investigators. This bias motivated a series of offline tests of model extensions and improvements intended to reduce or eliminate the bias. These improvements consist of changes to the model’s albedo formulation that include a parameterization for snowpack aging, changes to how pack temperature is computed, and inclusion of a provision for refreeze of liquid water in the pack. Less extensive testing was done on the performance of model extensions with alternate areal depletion parameterizations. Model improvements were evaluated through comparisons of point simulations with National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) SWE data for deep-mountain snowpacks at selected stations in the western United States, as well as simulations of snow areal extent over the conterminous United States (CONUS) domain, compared with observational data from the NOAA Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System (IMS). The combination of snow-albedo decay and liquid-water refreeze results in substantial improvements in the magnitude and timing of peak SWE, as well as increased snow-covered extent at large scales. Modifications to areal snow depletion thresholds yielded more realistic snow-covered albedos at large scales.

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Youlong Xia, Michael B. Ek, Yihua Wu, Trent Ford, and Steven M. Quiring

Abstract

Soil moisture observations from seven observational networks (spanning portions of seven states) with different biome and climate conditions were used in this study to evaluate multimodel simulated soil moisture products. The four land surface models, including Noah, Mosaic, Sacramento soil moisture accounting (SAC), and the Variable Infiltration Capacity model (VIC), were run within phase 2 of the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS-2), with a ⅛° spatial resolution and hourly temporal resolution. Hundreds of sites in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, West Texas, and Utah were used to evaluate simulated soil moisture in the 0–10-, 10–40-, and 40–100-cm soil layers. Soil moisture was spatially averaged in each state to reduce noise. In general, the four models captured broad features (e.g., seasonal variation) of soil moisture variations in all three soil layers in seven states, except for the 10–40-cm soil layer in West Texas and the 40–100-cm soil layer in Alabama, where the anomaly correlations are weak. Overall, Mosaic, SAC, and the ensemble mean have the highest simulation skill and VIC has the lowest simulation skill. The results show that Noah and VIC are wetter than the observations while Mosaic and SAC are drier than the observations, mostly likely because of systematic errors in model evapotranspiration.

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Gary M. Lackmann, Kermit Keeter, Laurence G. Lee, and Michael B. Ek

Abstract

During episodes of sustained moderate or heavy precipitation in conjunction with near-freezing temperatures and weak horizontal temperature advection, the latent heat released (absorbed) by the freezing (melting) of falling precipitation may alter thermal profiles sufficiently to affect the type and amount of freezing or frozen precipitation observed at the surface. Representation of these processes by operational numerical weather prediction models is incomplete; forecaster knowledge of these model limitations can therefore be advantageous during winter weather forecasting. The Eta Model employs a sophisticated land surface model (LSM) to represent physical processes at the lower-atmospheric interface. When considering the thermodynamic effect of melting or freezing precipitation at the surface, it is shown that limitations in the current version of the Eta LSM can contribute to biases in lower-tropospheric temperature forecasts. The Eta LSM determines the precipitation type reaching the surface from the air temperature at the lowest model level; subfreezing (above freezing) temperatures are assumed to correspond to snow (rain) reaching the surface. There is currently no requirement for consistency between the LSM and the Eta grid-scale precipitation scheme. In freezing-rain situations, the lowest model air temperature is typically below freezing, and the Eta LSM will therefore determine that snow is falling. As a result, a cold bias develops that is partly caused by the neglected latent heat release accompanying the freezing of raindrops at the surface. In addition, alterations in surface characteristics caused by erroneous snowfall accumulation in the model may also contribute to temperature biases. In an analogous fashion, warm biases can develop in cases with melting snow and above-freezing air temperatures near the surface (the LSM assumes rain). An example case is presented in which model misrepresentation of freezing rain is hypothesized to have contributed to a lower-tropospheric cold bias. A simple temperature correction, based on the first law of thermodynamics, is applied to lower-tropospheric model temperature forecasts; the neglect of latent heat released by freezing rain in the model is shown to contribute substantially to a cold bias in near-surface temperature forecasts. The development of a spurious snow cover likely exacerbated the bias.

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Youlong Xia, Michael B. Ek, Yihua Wu, Trent Ford, and Steven M. Quiring

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In this second part of a two-part paper, the impacts of soil texture and vegetation type misclassification and their combined effect on soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and total runoff simulation are investigated using the Noah model. The results show that these impacts are significant for most regions and soil layers, although they vary depending on soil texture classification, vegetation type, and season. The use of site-observed soil texture classification and vegetation type in the model does not necessarily improve anomaly correlations and reduce mean absolute error for soil moisture simulations. Instead, results are mixed when examining all regions and soil layers. This is attributed to the compensation effects (e.g., effect of ill-calibrated model parameters), as Noah has been more or less calibrated with model-specified soil texture classification and vegetation type. The site-based analysis shows that Noah can reasonably simulate the variation of daily evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and total runoff when soil texture classification (vegetation type) is corrected from loam (forest) to clay (grasslands) or vice versa. This suggests that the performance of Noah can be further improved by tuning model parameters when site-observed soil texture and vegetation type are used.

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Youlong Xia, Trent W. Ford, Yihua Wu, Steven M. Quiring, and Michael B. Ek

Abstract

The North American Soil Moisture Database (NASMD) was initiated in 2011 to provide support for developing climate forecasting tools, calibrating land surface models, and validating satellite-derived soil moisture algorithms. The NASMD has collected data from over 30 soil moisture observation networks providing millions of in situ soil moisture observations in all 50 states, as well as Canada and Mexico. It is recognized that the quality of measured soil moisture in NASMD is highly variable because of the diversity of climatological conditions, land cover, soil texture, and topographies of the stations, and differences in measurement devices (e.g., sensors) and installation. It is also recognized that error, inaccuracy, and imprecision in the data can have significant impacts on practical operations and scientific studies. Therefore, developing an appropriate quality control procedure is essential to ensure that the data are of the best quality. In this study, an automated quality control approach is developed using the North American Land Data Assimilation System, phase 2 (NLDAS-2), Noah soil porosity, soil temperature, and fraction of liquid and total soil moisture to flag erroneous and/or spurious measurements. Overall results show that this approach is able to flag unreasonable values when the soil is partially frozen. A validation example using NLDAS-2 multiple model soil moisture products at the 20-cm soil layer showed that the quality control procedure had a significant positive impact in Alabama, North Carolina, and west Texas. It had a greater impact in colder regions, particularly during spring and autumn. Over 433 NASMD stations have been quality controlled using the methodology proposed in this study, and the algorithm will be implemented to control data quality from the other ~1200 NASMD stations in the near future.

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Omar V. Müller, Ernesto Hugo Berbery, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, and Michael B. Ek
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Omar V. Müller, Ernesto Hugo Berbery, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, and Michael B. Ek

Abstract

This work discusses the land surface–atmosphere interactions during the severe drought of 2008 in southern South America, which was among the most severe in the last 50 years in terms of both intensity and extent. Once precipitation returned to normal values, it took about two months for the soil moisture content and vegetation to recover. The land surface effects were examined by contrasting long-term simulations using a consistent set of satellite-derived annually varying land surface biophysical properties against simulations using the conventional land-cover types in the Weather Research and Forecasting Model–Noah land surface model (WRF–Noah). The new land-cover dataset is based on ecosystem functional properties that capture changes in vegetation status due to climate anomalies and land-use changes.

The results show that the use of realistic information of vegetation states enhances the model performance, reducing the precipitation biases over the drought region and over areas of excessive precipitation. The precipitation bias reductions are attributed to the corresponding changes in greenness fraction, leaf area index, stomatal resistance, and surface roughness. The temperature simulation shows a generalized increase, which is attributable to a lower vegetation greenness and a doubling of the stomatal resistance that reduces the evapotranspiration rate. The increase of temperature has a beneficial effect toward the eastern part of the domain with a notable reduction of the bias, but not over the central region where the bias is increased. The overall results suggest that an improved representation of the surface processes may contribute to improving the predictive skill of the model system.

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