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Eta model-estimated land surface processes and the hydrologic cycle of the Mississippi Basin

This article discusses the water and surface energy budgets over the Mississippi River basin and subbasins using NCEP's Eta model forecasts. It also discusses the relation between surface states (soil moisture) and other variables that affect the surface energy balance, potentially interacting with precipitation processes. The Eta model is NCEP's operational mesoscale model and therefore has been subject to changes and upgrades over the period of this evaluation. While the atmospheric water cycle is analyzed here using a 7-year long (June 1995 to May 2002) data set, the research focusing on surface processes is based on a 4-year period (June 1998 to May 2002) after substantial upgrades to the land surface component were performed. On the 7-year average the Eta model 12–36 h forecast precipitation averaged over the Mississippi basin differs from the observed precipitation by 2%, while the estimate of evaporation computed as a residual of the water balance equation differs by 5% from the evaporation estimate resulting from a data set of land surface fluxes prepared with the macroscale hydrologic variable infiltration model (VIC). However, the difference between the model parameterized evaporation and VIC's is about 17% due to excessive bare soil evaporation in the Eta model. Notably, the long-term average of moisture flux convergence also estimated from the 12–36 h forecasts is 0.54 mm day−1 over the Mississippi basin, while streamflow observations at Vicksburg average 0.50 mm day−1. This agreement within 10% is a strict test of the quality of the hydrologic cycle estimates; therefore these are promising results for estimates of the water cycle from regional analysis or future regional reanalysis. Subbasins of the Mississippi have diverse land surface-atmosphere interactions at monthly timescales. In the western half of the Mississippi basin, feedbacks can be described as follows: increased soil moisture is associated with a slight increase of net radiation at the surface; latent heat also increases with soil moisture while sensible heat decreases, resulting in an almost linear increase of the evaporative fraction. Increased soil moisture is also associated with a lower lifting condensation level and an increase of observed precipitation (though not statistically significant). The overall results support the concept of a positive feedback in which increased soil moisture affects surface fluxes in such a manner that increased precipitation results. However, toward the east (e.g., the Ohio basin), there are no well-defined land surface-atmosphere interactions, suggesting that other effects, like the advection of moisture, may be more relevant for precipitation processes.

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Berbery, E. H., Y. Luo, K. E. Mitchell and A. K. Betts, (2003), Eta model-estimated land surface processes and the hydrologic cycle of the Mississippi Basin , J. Geophys. Res., 108 (D16), 8852, doi:10.1029/2002JD003192.