The Influence of Potential Evaporation on the Variabilities of Simulated Soil Wetness and Climate

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  • 1 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/N0AA, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

An atmospheric general circulation model with prescribed sea surface temperature and cloudiness was integrated for 50 years in order to study atmosphere-land surface interactions. The temporal variability of model soil moisture and precipitation have been studied in an effort to understand the interactions of these variables with other components of the climate system.

Temporal variability analysis has shown that the spectra of monthly mean precipitation over land are close to white at all latitudes, with total variance decreasing poleward. In contrasts, the spectra of soil moisture are red, and become more red with increasing latitude. As a measure of this redness, half of the total variance of a composite tropical soil moisture spectrum occurs at periods longer than nine months, while at high latitudes, half of the total variance of a composite soil moisture spectrum occurs at periods longer than 22 months. The spectra of soil moisture also exhibit marked longitudinal variations.

These spectral results may be viewed in the light of stochastic theory. The formulation of the GFDL soil moisture parameterization is mathematically similar to a stochastic process. According to this model, forcing of a system by an input white noise variable (precipitation) will yield an output variable (soil moisture) with a red spectrum, the redness of which is controlled by a damping term (potential evaporation). Thus, the increasingly red nature of the soil moisture spectra at higher latitudes is a result of declining potential evaporation values at higher latitudes. Physically, soil moisture excesses are dissipated more slowly at high latitudes where the energy available for evaporation is small.

Some of the longitudinal variations in soil moisture spectra result from longitudinal variations in potential evaporation, while others are explicable in terms of the value of the ratio of potential evaporation to precipitation. Regions where this value is less than one are characterized by frequent runoff and short time scales of soil moisture variability. By preventing excessive positive anomalies of soil moisture, the runoff process hastens the return of soil moisture values to their mean state, thereby shortening soil moisture time scales.

Through the use of a second GCM integration with prescribed soil moisture, it was shown that interactive sod moisture may substantially increase summer surface air temperature variability. Soil moisture interacts with the atmosphere primarily through the surface energy balance. The degree of soil saturation strongly influences the atmosphere of outgoing energy from the surface between the latent and sensible heat fluxes. Interactive soil moisture allows larger variations of these fluxes, thereby increasing the variance of surface air temperature. Because the flux of latent heat is directly proportional to potential evaporation under conditions of sufficient moisture, the influence of soil moisture on the atmosphere is greatest when the potential evaporation value is large. This occurs most frequently in the tropics and summer hemisphere extratropics.

Abstract

An atmospheric general circulation model with prescribed sea surface temperature and cloudiness was integrated for 50 years in order to study atmosphere-land surface interactions. The temporal variability of model soil moisture and precipitation have been studied in an effort to understand the interactions of these variables with other components of the climate system.

Temporal variability analysis has shown that the spectra of monthly mean precipitation over land are close to white at all latitudes, with total variance decreasing poleward. In contrasts, the spectra of soil moisture are red, and become more red with increasing latitude. As a measure of this redness, half of the total variance of a composite tropical soil moisture spectrum occurs at periods longer than nine months, while at high latitudes, half of the total variance of a composite soil moisture spectrum occurs at periods longer than 22 months. The spectra of soil moisture also exhibit marked longitudinal variations.

These spectral results may be viewed in the light of stochastic theory. The formulation of the GFDL soil moisture parameterization is mathematically similar to a stochastic process. According to this model, forcing of a system by an input white noise variable (precipitation) will yield an output variable (soil moisture) with a red spectrum, the redness of which is controlled by a damping term (potential evaporation). Thus, the increasingly red nature of the soil moisture spectra at higher latitudes is a result of declining potential evaporation values at higher latitudes. Physically, soil moisture excesses are dissipated more slowly at high latitudes where the energy available for evaporation is small.

Some of the longitudinal variations in soil moisture spectra result from longitudinal variations in potential evaporation, while others are explicable in terms of the value of the ratio of potential evaporation to precipitation. Regions where this value is less than one are characterized by frequent runoff and short time scales of soil moisture variability. By preventing excessive positive anomalies of soil moisture, the runoff process hastens the return of soil moisture values to their mean state, thereby shortening soil moisture time scales.

Through the use of a second GCM integration with prescribed soil moisture, it was shown that interactive sod moisture may substantially increase summer surface air temperature variability. Soil moisture interacts with the atmosphere primarily through the surface energy balance. The degree of soil saturation strongly influences the atmosphere of outgoing energy from the surface between the latent and sensible heat fluxes. Interactive soil moisture allows larger variations of these fluxes, thereby increasing the variance of surface air temperature. Because the flux of latent heat is directly proportional to potential evaporation under conditions of sufficient moisture, the influence of soil moisture on the atmosphere is greatest when the potential evaporation value is large. This occurs most frequently in the tropics and summer hemisphere extratropics.

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