Impacts of Soil Heating Condition on Precipitation Simulations in the Weather Research and Forecasting Model

Xingang Fan
July 2009
Monthly Weather Review;Jul2009, Vol. 137 Issue 7, p2263
Academic Journal
Soil temperature is a major variable in land surface models, representing soil energy status, storage, and transfer. It serves as an important factor indicating the underlying surface heating condition for weather and climate forecasts. This study utilizes the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to study the impacts of changes to the surface heating condition, derived from soil temperature observations, on regional weather simulations. Large cold biases are found in the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis project (ERA-40) soil temperatures as compared to observations. At the same time, a warm bias is found in the lower boundary assumption adopted by the Noah land surface model. In six heavy rain cases studied herein, observed soil temperatures are used to initialize the land surface model and to provide a lower boundary condition at the bottom of the model soil layer. By analyzing the impacts from the incorporation of observed soil temperatures, the following major conclusions are drawn: 1) A consistent increase in the ground heat flux is found during the day, when the observed soil temperatures are used to correct the cold bias present in ERA-40. Soil temperature changes introduced at the initial time maintain positive values but gradually decrease in magnitude with time. Sensible and latent heat fluxes and the moisture flux experience an increase during the first 6 h. 2) An increase in soil temperature impacts the air temperature through surface exchange, and near-surface moisture through evaporation. During the first two days, an increase in air temperature is seen across the region from the surface up to about 800 hPa (∼1450 m). The maximum near-surface air temperature increase is found to be, averaged over all cases, 0.5 K on the first day and 0.3 K on the second day. 3) The strength of the low-level jet is affected by the changes described above and also by the consequent changes in horizontal gradients of pressure and thermal fields. Thus, the three-dimensional circulation is affected, in addition to changes seen in the humidity and thermal fields and the locations and intensities of precipitating systems. 4) Overall results indicate that the incorporation of observed soil temperatures introduces a persistent soil heating condition that is favorable to convective development and, consequently, improves the simulation of precipitation.


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