17C.1 Landscape-Scale Soil Moisture Heterogeneity and Its Influence on Surface Fluxes at the Jornada LTER Site: Evaluating a New Model Parameterization for Subgrid-Scale Soil Moisture Variability

Thursday, 11 January 2018: 3:30 PM
Room 16AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Ian Baker, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO; and L. Prihodko, E. R. Vivoni, and A. S. Denning

Arid and semiarid regions represent a large fraction of global land, with attendant importance of surface energy and trace gas flux to global totals. These regions are characterized by strong seasonality, especially in precipitation, that defines the level of ecosystem stress. Individual plants have been observed to respond non-linearly to increasing soil moisture stress, where plant function is generally maintained as soils dry down to a threshold at which rapid closure of stomates occurs. Incorporating this nonlinear mechanism into landscape-scale models can result in unrealistic binary “on-off” behavior that is especially problematic in arid landscapes.

Subsequently, models have ‘relaxed’ their simulation of soil moisture stress on evapotranspiration (ET). Unfortunately, these relaxations are not physically based, but are imposed upon model physics as a means to force a more realistic response. Previously, we have introduced a new method to represent soil moisture regulation of ET, whereby the landscape is partitioned into ‘BINS’ of soil moisture wetness, each associated with a fractional area of the landscape or grid cell. A physically- and observationally-based nonlinear soil moisture stress function is applied, but when convolved with the relative area distribution represented by wetness BINS the system has the emergent property of ‘smoothing’ the landscape-scale response without the need for non-physical impositions on model physics.

In this research we confront BINS simulations of Bowen ratio, soil moisture variability and trace gas flux with soil moisture and eddy covariance observations taken at the Jornada LTER dryland site in southern New Mexico. We calculate the mean annual wetting cycle and associated variability about the mean state and evaluate model performance against this variability and time series of land surface fluxes from the highly instrumented Tromble Weir watershed. The BINS simulations capture the relatively rapid reaction to wetting events and more prolonged response to drying cycles, as opposed to binary behavior in the control.

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