Reconstructing sixty year (1950-2009) daily soil moisture over the Canadian Prairies using the Variable Infiltration Capacity model

Lei Wen; Lin, Charles A.; Zhiyong Wu; Guihua Lu; Pomeroy, John; Yufei Zhu
March 2011
Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue Canadienne des Ressourc;Spring2011, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p83
Academic Journal
The Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) land surface macroscale hydrology model was used to reconstruct 60 years (1950-2009) of daily soil moisture values for three soil layers (0-20 cm, 20-100 cm, and 0-100 cm) over the three Canadian Prairie Provinces with a total area of 1,964,000 km2. VIC was applied over a grid of 4,393 points with a resolution of 0.25� � 0.25�, and was driven by observed daily maximum and minimum air temperature and precipitation from 1,167 meteorological stations. The model was first calibrated using observed hydrographs from seven catchments with drainage areas varying from 3,750 to 7,870 km2. Special attention was given to modelling of rainfall-runoff processes over the non-contributing drainage area of the Prairies. VIC was then validated over these seven catchments at different periods and over an additional five catchments with drainage areas ranging from 36,500 to 131,000 km2. An estimation procedure to determine model parameters was developed and applied to catchments where hydrographs are not available for the standard calibration process. In situ soil moisture measurements from six Alberta sites were also used for model validation. VTC performed well over both calibration and validation catchments. The results clearly demonstrate that incorporating non-contributing drainage areas into runoff calculations could substantially improve the ability of VTC to simulate surface and sub-surface runoff in regions where poor drainage network development is a dominant feature of drainage basins. The VIC reconstructed 60-year average of the soil moisture in the top 1 m shows some expected climatological features of the Prairies. For example, the reconstructed soil moisture climatology portrays the dry Palliser Triangle region and the Prairie Dry Belt in the southern Prairies. The VTC simulated soil moisture was used to calculate the daily Soil Moisture Anomaly Percentage Index (SMAPI) for the three soil layers; SMAPI can be used as an index of agricultural drought severity taking into account climatology. The value of the calculated SMAPI in quantifying and documenting prairie drought events is demonstrated through an intensive examination of the April 2002 drought case.


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