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The Influence of Soil Wetness on Near-Surface Atmospheric Variability

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

The influence of land surface processes on near-surface atmospheric variability on seasonal and interannual time scales is studied using output from two integrations of a general circulation model. In the first experiment of 50 years duration, soil moisture is predicted, thereby taking into consideration interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere. In the second experiment, of 25 years duration, the seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed at each grid point based upon the results of the first integration, thereby suppressing thew interactions. The same seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed for each year of the second integration. Differences in atmospheric variability between the two integrations are due to interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere.

Analyses of monthly data indicate that the surface moisture budget interacts with the atmosphere in such a way as to lengthen the time scales of fluctuations of near-surface relative humidity and temperature, as well as to increase the total variability of the atmosphere. During summer months at middle latitudes, the persistence of near-surface relative humidity, as measured by correlations of monthly mean relative humidity between successive months, increases from near zero in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture to as large as 0.6 in the experiment with interactive soil moisture, which corresponds to an e-folding time of approximately two months. The standard deviation of monthly mean relative humidity during summer is substantially larger in the experiment with interactive soil moisture than in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture. Surface air temperature exhibits similar changes, but of smaller magnitude.

Soil wetness influence the atmosphere by altering the partitioning of the outgoing energy flux at the surface into latent and sensible heat components. Fluctuations of soil moisture result in large variations in these fluxes, and thus significant variations in near surface relative humidity and temperature. Because anomalies of monthly mean soil moisture are characterized by seasonal and interannual time scales, they create persistent anomalous fluxes of latent and sensible heat, thereby increasing the persistence of near-surface atmospheric relative humidity and temperature.

Abstract

The influence of land surface processes on near-surface atmospheric variability on seasonal and interannual time scales is studied using output from two integrations of a general circulation model. In the first experiment of 50 years duration, soil moisture is predicted, thereby taking into consideration interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere. In the second experiment, of 25 years duration, the seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed at each grid point based upon the results of the first integration, thereby suppressing thew interactions. The same seasonal cycle of soil moisture is prescribed for each year of the second integration. Differences in atmospheric variability between the two integrations are due to interactions between the surface moisture budget and the atmosphere.

Analyses of monthly data indicate that the surface moisture budget interacts with the atmosphere in such a way as to lengthen the time scales of fluctuations of near-surface relative humidity and temperature, as well as to increase the total variability of the atmosphere. During summer months at middle latitudes, the persistence of near-surface relative humidity, as measured by correlations of monthly mean relative humidity between successive months, increases from near zero in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture to as large as 0.6 in the experiment with interactive soil moisture, which corresponds to an e-folding time of approximately two months. The standard deviation of monthly mean relative humidity during summer is substantially larger in the experiment with interactive soil moisture than in the experiment with prescribed soil moisture. Surface air temperature exhibits similar changes, but of smaller magnitude.

Soil wetness influence the atmosphere by altering the partitioning of the outgoing energy flux at the surface into latent and sensible heat components. Fluctuations of soil moisture result in large variations in these fluxes, and thus significant variations in near surface relative humidity and temperature. Because anomalies of monthly mean soil moisture are characterized by seasonal and interannual time scales, they create persistent anomalous fluxes of latent and sensible heat, thereby increasing the persistence of near-surface atmospheric relative humidity and temperature.

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