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

Abstract

The inherent coupled nature of earth’s energy and water cycles places significant importance on the proper representation and diagnosis of land–atmosphere (LA) interactions in hydrometeorological prediction models. However, the precise nature of the soil moisture–precipitation relationship at the local scale is largely determined by a series of nonlinear processes and feedbacks that are difficult to quantify. To quantify the strength of the local LA coupling (LoCo), this process chain must be considered both in full and as individual components through their relationships and sensitivities. To address this, recent modeling and diagnostic studies have been extended to 1) quantify the processes governing LoCo utilizing the thermodynamic properties of mixing diagrams, and 2) diagnose the sensitivity of coupled systems, including clouds and moist processes, to perturbations in soil moisture. This work employs NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) coupled to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model and simulations performed over the U.S. Southern Great Plains. The behavior of different planetary boundary layers (PBL) and land surface scheme couplings in LIS–WRF are examined in the context of the evolution of thermodynamic quantities that link the surface soil moisture condition to the PBL regime, clouds, and precipitation. Specifically, the tendency toward saturation in the PBL is quantified by the lifting condensation level (LCL) deficit and addressed as a function of time and space. The sensitivity of the LCL deficit to the soil moisture condition is indicative of the strength of LoCo, where both positive and negative feedbacks can be identified. Overall, this methodology can be applied to any model or observations and is a crucial step toward improved evaluation and quantification of LoCo within models, particularly given the advent of next-generation satellite measurements of PBL and land surface properties along with advances in data assimilation schemes.

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Sujay V. Kumar
,
Christa D. Peters-Lidard
,
David Mocko
, and
Yudong Tian

Abstract

The downwelling shortwave radiation on the earth’s land surface is affected by the terrain characteristics of slope and aspect. These adjustments, in turn, impact the evolution of snow over such terrain. This article presents a multiscale evaluation of the impact of terrain-based adjustments to incident shortwave radiation on snow simulations over two midlatitude regions using two versions of the Noah land surface model (LSM). The evaluation is performed by comparing the snow cover simulations against the 500-m Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) snow cover product. The model simulations are evaluated using categorical measures, such as the probability of detection of “yes” events (PODy), which measure the fraction of snow cover presence that was correctly simulated, and false alarm ratio (FAR), which measures the fraction of no-snow events that was incorrectly simulated. The results indicate that the terrain-based correction of radiation leads to systematic improvements in the snow cover estimates in both domains and in both LSM versions (with roughly 12% overall improvement in PODy and 5% improvement in FAR), with larger improvements observed during snow accumulation and melt periods. Increased contribution to PODy and FAR improvements is observed over the north- and south-facing slopes, when the overall improvements are stratified to the four cardinal aspect categories. A two-dimensional discrete Haar wavelet analysis for the two study areas indicates that the PODy improvements in snow cover estimation drop to below 10% at scales coarser than 16 km, whereas the FAR improvements are below 10% at scales coarser than 4 km.

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Patricia Lawston-Parker
,
Joseph A. Santanello Jr.
, and
Sujay V. Kumar

Abstract

Accurately representing land–atmosphere (LA) interactions and coupling in NWP systems remains a challenge. New observations, incorporated into models via assimilation or calibration, hold the promise of improved forecast skill, but erroneous model coupling can hinder the benefits of such activities. To better understand model representation of coupled interactions and feedbacks, this study demonstrates a novel framework for coupled calibration of the single column model (SCM) capability of the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) system coupled to NASA’s Land Information System (LIS). The local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) process chain paradigm is used to assess the processes and connections revealed by calibration experiments. Two summer case studies in the U.S. Southern Great Plains are simulated in which LSM parameters are calibrated to diurnal observations of LoCo process chain components including 2-m temperature, 2-m humidity, surface fluxes (Bowen ratio), and PBL height. Results show a wide range of soil moisture and hydraulic parameter solutions depending on which LA variable (i.e., observation) is used for calibration, highlighting that improvement in either soil hydraulic parameters or initial soil moisture when not in tandem with the other can provide undesirable results. Overall, this work demonstrates that a process chain calibration approach can be used to assess LA connections, feedbacks, strengths, and deficiencies in coupled models, as well as quantify the potential impact of new sources of observations of land–PBL variables on coupled prediction.

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Fadji Z. Maina
,
Sujay V. Kumar
,
Ishrat Jahan Dollan
, and
Viviana Maggioni

Abstract

Precipitation estimates are highly uncertain in complex regions such as High Mountain Asia (HMA), where ground measurements are very difficult to obtain and atmospheric dynamics poorly understood. Though gridded products derived from satellite-based observations and/or reanalysis can provide temporally and spatially distributed estimates of precipitation, there are significant inconsistencies in these products. As such, to date, there is little agreement in the community on the best and most accurate gridded precipitation product in HMA, which is likely area dependent because of HMA’s strong heterogeneities and complex orography. Targeting these gaps, this article presents the development of a consensus ensemble precipitation product using three gridded precipitation datasets [the Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement (IMERG), the Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS), and the ECMWF reanalysis ERA5] with a localized probability matched mean (LPM) approach. We evaluate the performance of the LPM estimate along with a simple ensemble mean (EM) estimate to overcome the differences and disparities of the three selected constituent products on long-term averages and trends in HMA. Our analysis demonstrates that LPM reduces the high biases embedded in the ensemble members and provides more realistic spatial patterns compared to EM. LPM is also a good alternative for merging data products with different spatiotemporal resolutions. By filtering disparities among the individual ensemble members, LPM overcomes the problem of a certain product performing well only in a particular area and provides a consensus estimate with plausible temporal trends.

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

Abstract

This study presents an evaluation of the impact of vegetation conditions on a land surface model (LSM) simulation of agricultural drought. The Noah-MP LSM is used to simulate water and energy fluxes and states, which are transformed into drought categories using percentiles over the continental United States from 1979 to 2017. Leaf area index (LAI) observations are assimilated into the dynamic vegetation scheme of Noah-MP. A weekly operational drought monitor (the U.S. Drought Monitor) is used for the evaluation. The results show that LAI assimilation into Noah-MP’s dynamic vegetation scheme improves the model’s ability to represent drought, particularly over cropland areas. LAI assimilation improves the simulation of the drought category, detection of drought conditions, and reduces the instances of drought false alarms. The assimilation of LAI in these locations not only corrects model errors in the simulation of vegetation, but also can help to represent unmodeled physical processes such as irrigation toward improved simulation of agricultural drought.

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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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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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Benjamin F. Zaitchik
,
Joseph A. Santanello
,
Sujay V. Kumar
, and
Christa D. Peters-Lidard

Abstract

Positive soil moisture–precipitation feedbacks can intensify heat and prolong drought under conditions of precipitation deficit. Adequate representation of these processes in regional climate models is, therefore, important for extended weather forecasts, seasonal drought analysis, and downscaled climate change projections. This paper presents the first application of the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting Model (NU-WRF) to simulation of seasonal drought. Simulations of the 2006 southern Great Plains drought performed with and without soil moisture memory indicate that local soil moisture feedbacks had the potential to concentrate precipitation in wet areas relative to dry areas in summer drought months. Introduction of a simple dynamic surface albedo scheme that models albedo as a function of soil moisture intensified the simulated feedback pattern at local scale—dry, brighter areas received even less precipitation while wet, whereas darker areas received more—but did not significantly change the total amount of precipitation simulated across the drought-affected region. This soil-moisture-mediated albedo land–atmosphere coupling pathway is structurally excluded from standard versions of WRF.

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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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Joseph A. Santanello Jr.
,
Christa D. Peters-Lidard
,
Sujay V. Kumar
,
Charles Alonge
, and
Wei-Kuo Tao

Abstract

Land–atmosphere interactions play a critical role in determining the diurnal evolution of both planetary boundary layer (PBL) and land surface temperature and moisture states. The degree of coupling between the land surface and PBL in numerical weather prediction and climate models remains largely unexplored and undiagnosed because of the complex interactions and feedbacks present across a range of scales. Furthermore, uncoupled systems or experiments [e.g., the Project for the Intercomparison of Land-Surface Parameterization Schemes (PILPS)] may lead to inaccurate water and energy cycle process understanding by neglecting feedback processes such as PBL-top entrainment. In this study, a framework for diagnosing local land–atmosphere coupling is presented using a coupled mesoscale model with a suite of PBL and land surface model (LSM) options along with observations during field experiments in the U.S. Southern Great Plains. Specifically, the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) has been coupled to the Land Information System (LIS), which provides a flexible and high-resolution representation and initialization of land surface physics and states. Within this framework, the coupling established by each pairing of the available PBL schemes in WRF with the LSMs in LIS is evaluated in terms of the diurnal temperature and humidity evolution in the mixed layer. The coevolution of these variables and the convective PBL are sensitive to and, in fact, integrative of the dominant processes that govern the PBL budget, which are synthesized through the use of mixing diagrams. Results show how the sensitivity of land–atmosphere interactions to the specific choice of PBL scheme and LSM varies across surface moisture regimes and can be quantified and evaluated against observations. As such, this methodology provides a potential pathway to study factors controlling local land–atmosphere coupling (LoCo) using the LIS–WRF system, which will serve as a test bed for future experiments to evaluate coupling diagnostics within the community.

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