Impact of Irrigation Methods on LSM Spinup and Initialization of WRF Forecasts

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 4:00 PM
Room C210 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Patricia Lawston, University of Delaware, Newark, VA; and J. A. Santanello Jr., B. F. Zaitchik, and H. Beaudoing

In the United States, irrigation represents the largest consumption of fresh water and accounts for approximately one-third of all water usage. Irrigation has been shown to modify local hydrology and regional climate through a repartitioning of water at the surface and through the atmosphere, and can in some cases drastically change the terrestrial energy budget in agricultural areas during the growing season. Vegetation cover and soil moisture primarily control water and energy fluxes from the surface so accurate representation of the land surface characteristics is key to determining and predicting atmospheric conditions.

This study utilizes NASA's Land Information System (LIS) and the NASA Unified Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) model to investigate changes in land-atmosphere interactions resulting from drip, flood, and sprinkler irrigation methods. The study area encompasses a 500 km x 600 km region of the Central Great Plains including portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. This area provides a steep irrigation gradient, as much of the western region is heavily irrigated while minimal irrigation occurs in the eastern section. Five-year irrigated LIS spinups were used to initialize two-day, 1-km WRF forecasts. Two forecast periods were chosen, one in a drier than normal year (2006) and one in a wetter than normal year (2008) to evaluate the sensitivity of the irrigation approaches and impacts to the background climate conditions.

The offline and coupled simulation results show that both LIS spinups and NU-WRF forecasts are sensitive to irrigation and irrigation methods, as exhibited by significant changes to temperature, soil moisture, boundary layer height, and the partitioning of latent and sensible heat fluxes. Dry year impacts are greater than those in the wet year suggesting that the magnitude of these changes is dependent on the existing precipitation regime. Sprinkler and flood irrigation schemes impact the NU-WRF forecast the most, while drip irrigation has a comparatively small effect. Evaluation of the irrigation schemes using observations of soil moisture, fluxes, and meteorological state variables shows that a realistic characterization of the land surface in terms of land cover classification, soil type, and soil moisture anomalies via a LSM spinup are critical to producing a proper simulation of irrigation in land surface and coupled models.