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Mu Xiao, Bart Nijssen, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The severity–area–duration (SAD) method is used in conjunction with the Variable Infiltration Capacity model (VIC) to identify the major historical total moisture (TM; soil moisture plus snow water equivalent) droughts over the Pacific Northwest region, defined as the Columbia River basin and the region’s coastal drainages, for the period 1920–2013. The motivation is to understand how droughts identified using TM (a measure similar to that used in the U.S. Drought Monitor) relate to sector-specific drought measures that are more relevant to users. It is found that most of the SAD space is dominated by an extended drought period during the 1930s, although the most severe shorter droughts are in the 1970s (1976–78) and early 2000s (2000–04). The impact of the three severe TM droughts that dominate most of the SAD space are explored in terms of sector-specific measures relevant to dryland and irrigated agriculture, hydropower generation, municipal water supply, and recreation. It is found that in many cases the most severe droughts identified using the SAD method also appear among the most severe sector-specific droughts; however, there are important exceptions. Two types of inconsistencies are examined and the nature of the conditions that give rise to them are explored.

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Jiaojiao Gou, Chiyuan Miao, Luis Samaniego, Mu Xiao, Jingwen Wu, and Xiaoying Guo

Capsule summary

A long-term spatiotemporally continuous naturalized runoff record, CNRD v1.0, is reconstructed by using a comprehensive model parameter uncertainty analysis framework within a land-surface model.

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Mu Xiao, Sarith P. Mahanama, Yongkang Xue, Fei Chen, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

When compared with differences in snow accumulation predicted by widely used hydrological models, there is a much greater divergence among otherwise “good” models in their simulation of the snow ablation process. Here, we explore differences in the performance of the Variable Infiltration Capacity model (VIC), Noah land surface model with multiparameterization options (Noah-MP), the Catchment model, and the third-generation Simplified Simple Biosphere model (SiB3) in their ability to reproduce observed snow water equivalent (SWE) during the ablation season at 10 Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) stations over 1992–2012. During the ablation period, net radiation generally has stronger correlations with observed melt rates than does air temperature. Average ablation rates tend to be higher (in both model predictions and observations) at stations with a large accumulation of SWE. The differences in the dates of last snow between models and observations range from several days to approximately a month (on average 5.1 days earlier than in observations). If the surface cover in the models is changed from observed vegetation to bare soil in all of the models, only the melt rate of the VIC model increases. The differences in responses of models to canopy removal are directly related to snowpack energy inputs, which are further affected by different algorithms for surface albedo and energy allocation across the models. We also find that the melt rates become higher in VIC and lower in Noah-MP if the shrub/grass present at the observation sites is switched to trees.

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Lu Su, Qian Cao, Mu Xiao, David M. Mocko, Michael Barlage, Dongyue Li, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

We examine the drought variability over the Conterminous United States (CONUS) for 1915-2018 using the Noah-MP land-surface model. We examine different model options on drought reconstruction including optional representation of groundwater and dynamic vegetation phenology. Over our 104-year reconstruction period, we identify 12 great droughts that each covered at least 36% of CONUS and lasted for at least 5 months. The great droughts tend to have smaller areas when groundwater and/or dynamic vegetation are included in the model configuration. We detect a small decreasing trend in dry area coverage over CONUS in all configurations. We identify 45 major droughts in the baseline (with a dry area coverage greater than 23.6% of CONUS) that are, on average, somewhat less severe than great droughts. We find that representation of groundwater tends to increase drought duration for both great and major droughts, primarily by leading to earlier drought onset (some due to short-lived recovery from a previous drought) or later demise (groundwater anomalies lag precipitation anomalies). In contrast, representation of dynamic vegetation tends to shorten major droughts duration, primarily due to earlier drought demise ( closed stoma or dead vegetation reduces ET loss during droughts). On a regional basis, the U.S. Southwest (Southeast) has the longest (shortest) major drought durations. Consistent with earlier work, dry area coverage in all subregions except the Southwest has decreased. The effects of groundwater and dynamic vegetation vary regionally due to differences in groundwater depths (hence connectivity with the surface) and vegetation types.

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