Relationships between land surface and near-surface atmospheric variables in the NCEP North American Regional Reanalysis
This study examines the recently released National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) products over diverse climate regimes to determine the regional relationships between soil moisture and near-surface atmospheric variables. NARR assimilates observed precipitation, as well as near-surface observations of humidity and wind, while seeking a balance of the surface water and energy budgets with a modern land surface model. The results of this study indicate that for most basins (of approximate size of 0.5–1.0 106 km2) the NARR surface water budgets have relatively small residuals (about 0.2 mm day1), and slightly larger residuals (about 0.4 mm day1) for basins with complex terrain like those in the western United States.
Given that the NARR is an assimilation system (especially one that assimilates observed precipitation), the NARR does not include feedbacks between soil moisture and precipitation. Nonetheless, as a diagnostic tool anchored to observations, the NARR does show that the extent of positive correlation between anomalies of soil moisture and anomalies of precipitation in a given region depends on that region’s dryness. The existence of correlations among all variables is a necessary—but not sufficient—condition for land– atmosphere feedbacks to exist, as a region with no correlations would not be expected to have feedbacks. Likewise, a high degree of persistence of soil moisture anomalies in a given basin does not by itself guarantee a positive correlation between anomalies of soil moisture and precipitation.
Land surface–atmosphere relationships at monthly time scales are identified by examining the associations between soil moisture and surface and boundary layer variables. Low soil moisture is consistently associated with increased net shortwave radiation and increased outgoing longwave radiation through the effects of less cloud cover and lower atmospheric humidity. No systematic association is revealed between soil moisture and total net surface radiation, as this relation varies substantially between different basins. Low soil moisture is positively correlated with increased sensible heat and lower latent heat (reflected in a smaller evaporative fraction), decreased low-cloud cover, and higher lifting condensation level. The relation between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies is found to be quite variable between the basins, depending on whether availability of surface water exceeds the available energy for evaporation, or vice versa. Wetter basins, like the Columbia and Ohio, display weak or no correlations between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies. On the other hand, transitional regions between wet and dry regions, like the central Great Plains, manifest a positive correlation between soil moisture anomalies and precipitation anomalies. These results further the understanding of previous predictability studies (in coupled land–atmosphere prediction models), which indicates that in order for precipitation anomalies to emerge in response to soil moisture anomalies in a given region, it is necessary that the region’s seasonal climate be neither too dry nor too wet.
Luo, Y., E. H. Berbery, K. E. Mitchell and A. K. Betts (2007), Relationships between land surface and near-surface atmospheric variables in the NCEP North American Regional Reanalysis. J. Hydrometeorol. 8, 1184-1203.