An Idealized Prototype for Large-Scale Land–Atmosphere Coupling

Lintner, Benjamin; Gentine, Pierre; Findell, Kirsten L.; D'Andrea, Fabio; Sobel, Adam H.; Salvucci, Guido D.

A process-based, semianalytic prototype model for understanding large-scale land–atmosphere coupling is developed here. The metric for quantifying the coupling is the sensitivity of precipitation P to soil moisture W. For a range of prototype parameters typical of conditions found over tropical or summertime continents, the sensitivity measure exhibits a broad minimum at intermediate soil moisture values. This minimum is attributed to a trade-off between evaporation (or evapotranspiration) E and large-scale moisture convergence across the range of soil moisture states. For water-limited, low soil moisture conditions, is dominated by evaporative sensitivity , reflecting high potential evaporation Ep arising from relatively warm surface conditions and a moisture-deficient atmospheric column under dry surface conditions. By contrast, under high soil moisture (or energy limited) conditions, becomes slightly negative as Ep decreases. However, because convergence and precipitation increase strongly with decreasing (drying) moisture advection, while soil moisture slowly saturates, is large. Variation of key parameters is shown to impact the magnitude of, for example, increasing the time scale for deep convective adjustment lowers at a given W, especially on the moist side of the profile where convergence dominates. While the prototype’s applicability for direct quantitative comparison with either observations or models is clearly limited, it nonetheless demonstrates how the complex interplay of surface turbulent and column radiative fluxes, deep convection, and horizontal and vertical moisture transport influences the coupling of the land surface and atmosphere that may be expected to occur in either more realistic models or observations.


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Also Published In

Journal of Climate

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
September 26, 2013