920 An Analysis of Soil Moisture and Vegetation Conditions during a Period of Rapid Subseasonal Oscillations between Drought and Pluvials over Texas during 2015

Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Yafang Zhong, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison, Madision, WI; and J. A. Otkin and E. D. Hunt

Flash drought, characterized by the rapid onset of abnormally warm and dry weather conditions that leads to the rapid depletion of soil moisture and rapid deteriorations in vegetation health. Flash recovery, on the other hand, is characterized by a period(s) of intense precipitation where drought conditions are quickly eradicated and may be replaced by saturated soils and flooding. Both flash drought and flash recovery are closely tied to the rapid depletion or recharge of root zone soil moisture; therefore, soil moisture observations are very useful for monitoring their evolution. However, in-situ soil moisture observations tend to be concentrated over small regions and thus other methods are needed to provide a spatially continuous depiction of soil moisture conditions. One option is to use top soil moisture retrievals from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) sensor. SMAP provides routine coverage of surface soil moisture (0-5 cm) over most of the globe, including the timespan (2015) and region of interest (Texas) that are the focus of our study. This region had an unusual sequence of flash recovery-flash drought-flash recovery during an ~ six-month period during 2015 that provides a valuable case study of rapid transitions between extreme soil moisture conditions. During this project, SMAP soil moisture retrievals are being used in combination with in-situ soil moisture observations and assimilated into the Land Information System (LIS) to provide information about soil moisture content. LIS also provides greenness vegetation fraction data over large regions. The relationship between soil moisture and vegetation conditions and the response of the vegetation to the rapidly changing conditions are also assessed using the satellite thermal infrared based Evaporative Stress Index (ESI) that depicts anomalies in evapotranspiration, along with other vegetation datasets (leaf area index, greenness fraction) derived using MODIS observations. Preliminary results with the Noah land surface model (inside of LIS) shows that it broadly captured the soil moisture evolution during the 2015 sequence but tended to underestimate the magnitude of soil moisture anomalies. The ESI also showed negative anomalies during the drought. These and other results will be presented at the annual meeting.
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