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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Patricia Lawston, Sujay Kumar, and Eli Dennis

Abstract

The role of soil moisture in NWP has gained more attention in recent years, as studies have demonstrated impacts of land surface states on ambient weather from diurnal to seasonal scales. However, soil moisture initialization approaches in coupled models remain quite diverse in terms of their complexity and observational roots, while assessment using bulk forecast statistics can be simplistic and misleading. In this study, a suite of soil moisture initialization approaches is used to generate short-term coupled forecasts over the U.S. Southern Great Plains using NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) and NASA Unified WRF (NU-WRF) modeling systems. This includes a wide range of currently used initialization approaches, including soil moisture derived from “off the shelf” products such as atmospheric models and land data assimilation systems, high-resolution land surface model spinups, and satellite-based soil moisture products from SMAP. Results indicate that the spread across initialization approaches can be quite large in terms of soil moisture conditions and spatial resolution, and that SMAP performs well in terms of heterogeneity and temporal dynamics when compared against high-resolution land surface model and in situ soil moisture estimates. Case studies are analyzed using the local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) framework that relies on integrated assessment of soil moisture, surface flux, boundary layer, and ambient weather, with results highlighting the critical role of inherent model background biases. In addition, simultaneous assessment of land versus atmospheric initial conditions in an integrated, process-level fashion can help address the question of whether improvements in traditional NWP verification statistics are achieved for the right reasons.

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Sujay V. Kumar, David M. Mocko, Shugong Wang, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Jordan Borak

Abstract

Accurate representation of vegetation states is required for the modeling of terrestrial water–energy–carbon exchanges and the characterization of the impacts of natural and anthropogenic vegetation changes on the land surface. This study presents a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of assimilating remote sensing–based leaf area index (LAI) retrievals over the continental United States in the Noah-MP land surface model, during a time period of 2000–17. The results demonstrate that the assimilation has a beneficial impact on the simulation of key water budget terms, such as soil moisture, evapotranspiration, snow depth, terrestrial water storage, and streamflow, when compared with a large suite of reference datasets. In addition, the assimilation of LAI is also found to improve the carbon fluxes of gross primary production (GPP) and net ecosystem exchange (NEE). Most prominent improvements in the water and carbon variables are observed over the agricultural areas of the United States, where assimilation improves the representation of vegetation seasonality impacted by cropping schedules. The systematic, added improvements from assimilation in a configuration that employs high-quality boundary conditions highlight the significant utility of LAI data assimilation in capturing the impacts of vegetation changes.

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Bailing Li, Matthew Rodell, Christa Peters-Lidard, Jessica Erlingis, Sujay Kumar, and David Mocko

Abstract

Estimating diffuse recharge of precipitation is fundamental to assessing groundwater sustainability. Diffuse recharge is also the process through which climate and climate change directly affect groundwater. In this study, we evaluated diffuse recharge over the conterminous United States simulated by a suite of land surface models (LSMs) that were forced using a common set of meteorological input data. Simulated annual recharge exhibited spatial patterns that were similar among the LSMs, with the highest values in the eastern United States and Pacific Northwest. However, the magnitudes of annual recharge varied significantly among the models and were associated with differences in simulated ET, runoff, and snow. Evaluation against two independent datasets did not answer the question of whether the ensemble mean performs the best, due to inconsistency between those datasets. The amplitude and timing of seasonal maximum recharge differed among the models, influenced strongly by model physics governing deep soil moisture drainage rates and, in cold regions, snowmelt. Evaluation using in situ soil moisture observations suggested that true recharge peaks 1–3 months later than simulated recharge, indicating systematic biases in simulating deep soil moisture. However, recharge from lateral flows and through preferential flows cannot be inferred from soil moisture data, and the seasonal cycle of simulated groundwater storage actually compared well with in situ groundwater observations. Long-term trends in recharge were not consistently correlated with either precipitation trends or temperature trends. This study highlights the need to employ dynamic flow models in LSMs, among other improvements, to enable more accurate simulation of recharge.

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Sujay V. Kumar, Kenneth W. Harrison, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Joseph A. Santanello Jr., and Dalia Kirschbaum

Abstract

Observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) are often conducted to evaluate the worth of existing data and data yet to be collected from proposed new missions. As missions increasingly require a broader “Earth systems” focus, it is important that the OSSEs capture the potential benefits of the observations on end-use applications. Toward this end, the results from the OSSEs must also be evaluated with a suite of metrics that capture the value, uncertainty, and information content of the observations while factoring in both science and societal impacts. This article presents a soil moisture OSSE that employs simulated L-band measurements and assesses its utility toward improving drought and flood risk estimates using the NASA Land Information System (LIS). A decision-theory-based analysis is conducted to assess the economic utility of the observations toward improving these applications. The results suggest that the improvements in surface soil moisture, root-zone soil moisture, and total runoff fields obtained through the assimilation of L-band measurements are effective in providing improvements in the drought and flood risk assessments as well. The decision-theory analysis not only demonstrates the economic utility of observations but also shows that the use of probabilistic information from the model simulations is more beneficial compared to the use of corresponding deterministic estimates. The experiment also demonstrates the value of a comprehensive modeling environment such as LIS for conducting end-to-end OSSEs by linking satellite observations, physical models, data assimilation algorithms, and end-use application models in a single integrated framework.

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Sujay V. Kumar, Rolf H. Reichle, Randal D. Koster, Wade T. Crow, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard

Abstract

Root-zone soil moisture controls the land–atmosphere exchange of water and energy, and exhibits memory that may be useful for climate prediction at monthly scales. Assimilation of satellite-based surface soil moisture observations into a land surface model is an effective way to estimate large-scale root-zone soil moisture. The propagation of surface information into deeper soil layers depends on the model-specific representation of subsurface physics that is used in the assimilation system. In a suite of experiments, synthetic surface soil moisture observations are assimilated into four different models [Catchment, Mosaic, Noah, and Community Land Model (CLM)] using the ensemble Kalman filter. The authors demonstrate that identical twin experiments significantly overestimate the information that can be obtained from the assimilation of surface soil moisture observations. The second key result indicates that the potential of surface soil moisture assimilation to improve root-zone information is higher when the surface–root zone coupling is stronger. The experiments also suggest that (faced with unknown true subsurface physics) overestimating surface–root zone coupling in the assimilation system provides more robust skill improvements in the root zone compared with underestimating the coupling. When CLM is excluded from the analysis, the skill improvements from using models with different vertical coupling strengths are comparable for different subsurface truths. Last, the skill improvements through assimilation were found to be sensitive to the regional climate and soil types.

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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Ken Harrison, and Shujia Zhou

Abstract

Land–atmosphere (LA) interactions play a critical role in determining the diurnal evolution of both planetary boundary layer (PBL) and land surface heat and moisture budgets, as well as controlling feedbacks with clouds and precipitation that lead to the persistence of dry and wet regimes. In this study, the authors examine the impact of improved specification of land surface states, anomalies, and fluxes on coupled Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) forecasts during the summers of extreme dry (2006) and wet (2007) land surface conditions in the U.S. southern Great Plains. The improved land initialization and surface flux parameterizations are obtained through calibration of the Noah land surface model using the new optimization and uncertainty estimation subsystems in NASA's Land Information System (LIS-OPT/LIS-UE). The impact of the calibration on the 1) spinup of the land surface used as initial conditions and 2) the simulated heat and moisture states and fluxes of the coupled WRF simulations is then assessed. In addition, the sensitivity of this approach to the period of calibration (dry, wet, or average) is investigated. Results show that the offline calibration is successful in providing improved initial conditions and land surface physics for the coupled simulations and in turn leads to systematic improvements in land–PBL fluxes and near-surface temperature and humidity forecasts. Impacts are larger during dry regimes, but calibration during either primarily wet or dry periods leads to improvements in coupled simulations due to the reduction in land surface model bias. Overall, these results provide guidance on the questions of what, how, and when to calibrate land surface models for coupled model prediction.

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Jonathan L. Case, William L. Crosson, Sujay V. Kumar, William M. Lapenta, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard

Abstract

This manuscript presents an assessment of daily regional simulations of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) numerical weather prediction (NWP) model initialized with high-resolution land surface data from the NASA Land Information System (LIS) software versus a control WRF configuration that uses land surface data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Eta Model. The goal of this study is to investigate the potential benefits of using the LIS software to improve land surface initialization for regional NWP. Fifty-eight individual nested simulations were integrated for 24 h for both the control and experimental (LISWRF) configurations during May 2004 over Florida and the surrounding areas: 29 initialized at 0000 UTC and 29 initialized at 1200 UTC. The land surface initial conditions for the LISWRF runs came from an offline integration of the Noah land surface model (LSM) within LIS for two years prior to the beginning of the month-long study on an identical grid domain to the subsequent WRF simulations. Atmospheric variables used to force the offline Noah LSM integration were provided by the North American Land Data Assimilation System and Global Data Assimilation System gridded analyses.

The LISWRF soil states were generally cooler and drier than the NCEP Eta Model soil states during May 2004. Comparisons between the control and LISWRF runs for one event suggested that the LIS land surface initial conditions led to an improvement in the timing and evolution of a sea-breeze circulation over portions of northwestern Florida. Surface verification statistics for the entire month indicated that the LISWRF runs produced a more enhanced and accurate diurnal range in 2-m temperatures compared to the control as a result of the overall drier initial soil states, which resulted from a reduction in the nocturnal warm bias in conjunction with a reduction in the daytime cold bias. Daytime LISWRF 2-m dewpoints were correspondingly drier than the control dewpoints, again a manifestation of the drier initial soil states in LISWRF. The positive results of the LISWRF experiments help to illustrate the importance of initializing regional NWP models with high-quality land surface data generated at the same grid resolution.

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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Aaron Kennedy, and Sujay V. Kumar

Abstract

Land–atmosphere (L–A) interactions play a critical role in determining the diurnal evolution of land surface and planetary boundary layer (PBL) temperature and moisture states and fluxes. In turn, these interactions regulate the strength of the connection between surface moisture and precipitation in a coupled system. To address model deficiencies, recent studies have focused on development of diagnostics to quantify the strength and accuracy of the land–PBL coupling at the process level. In this paper, a diagnosis of the nature and impacts of local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) during dry and wet extreme conditions is presented using a combination of models and observations during the summers of 2006 and 2007 in the U.S. southern Great Plains. A range of diagnostics exploring the links and feedbacks between soil moisture and precipitation is applied to the dry/wet regimes exhibited in this region, and in the process, a thorough evaluation of nine different land–PBL scheme couplings is conducted under the umbrella of a high-resolution regional modeling test bed. Results show that the sign and magnitude of errors in land surface energy balance components are sensitive to the choice of land surface model, regime type, and running mode. In addition, LoCo diagnostics show that the sensitivity of L–A coupling is stronger toward the land during dry conditions, while the PBL scheme coupling becomes more important during the wet regime. Results also demonstrate how LoCo diagnostics can be applied to any modeling system (e.g., reanalysis products) in the context of their integrated impacts on the process chain connecting the land surface to the PBL and in support of hydrological anomalies.

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Joseph A. Santanello Jr., Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, and Patricia M. Lawston

Abstract

Advances in satellite monitoring of the terrestrial water cycle have led to a concerted effort to assimilate soil moisture observations from various platforms into offline land surface models (LSMs). One principal but still open question is that of the ability of land data assimilation (LDA) to improve LSM initial conditions for coupled short-term weather prediction. In this study, the impact of assimilating Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) soil moisture retrievals on coupled WRF Model forecasts is examined during the summers of dry (2006) and wet (2007) surface conditions in the southern Great Plains. LDA is carried out using NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) and the Noah LSM through an ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) approach. The impacts of LDA on the 1) soil moisture and soil temperature initial conditions for WRF, 2) land–atmosphere coupling characteristics, and 3) ambient weather of the coupled LIS–WRF simulations are then assessed. Results show that impacts of soil moisture LDA during the spinup can significantly modify LSM states and fluxes, depending on regime and season. Results also indicate that the use of seasonal cumulative distribution functions (CDFs) is more advantageous compared to the traditional annual CDF bias correction strategies. LDA performs consistently regardless of atmospheric forcing applied, with greater improvements seen when using coarser, global forcing products. Downstream impacts on coupled simulations vary according to the strength of the LDA impact at the initialization, where significant modifications to the soil moisture flux–PBL–ambient weather process chain are observed. Overall, this study demonstrates potential for future, higher-resolution soil moisture assimilation applications in weather and climate research.

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Sujay V. Kumar, Christa D. Peters-Lidard, Kristi R. Arsenault, Augusto Getirana, David Mocko, and Yuqiong Liu

Abstract

Accurate determination of snow conditions is important for several water management applications, partly because of the significant influence of snowmelt on seasonal streamflow prediction. This article examines an approach using snow cover area (SCA) observations as snow detection constraints during the assimilation of snow depth retrievals from passive microwave sensors. Two different SCA products [the Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System (IMS) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)] are employed jointly with the snow depth retrievals from a variety of sensors for data assimilation in the Noah land surface model. The results indicate that the use of MODIS data is effective in obtaining added improvements (up to 6% improvement in aggregate RMSE) in snow depth fields compared to assimilating passive microwave data alone, whereas the impact of IMS data is small. The improvements in snow depth fields are also found to translate to small yet systematic improvements in streamflow estimates, especially over the western United States, the upper Missouri River, and parts of the Northeast and upper Mississippi River. This study thus demonstrates a simple approach for exploiting the information from SCA observations in data assimilation.

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