Analysis of soil moisture changes in Europe during a single growing season in a new ECMWF soil moisture assimilation system

B.J.J.M. van den Hurk, J. Ettema, Pedro Viterbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study aims at stimulating the development of soil moisture data assimilation systems in a direction where they can provide both the necessary control of slow drift in operational NWP applications and support the physical insight in the performance of the land surface component. It addresses four topics concerning the systematic nature of soil moisture data assimilation experiments over Europe during the growing season of 2000 involving the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model infrastructure. In the first topic the effect of the (spinup related) bias in 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) precipitation on the data assimilation is analyzed. From results averaged over 36 European locations, it appears that about half of the soil moisture increments in the 2000 growing season are attributable to the precipitation bias. A second topic considers a new soil moisture data assimilation system, demonstrated in a coupled single-column model (SCM) setup, where precipitation and radiation are derived from observations instead of from atmospheric model fields. For many of the considered locations in this new system, the accumulated soil moisture increments still exceed the interannual variability estimated from a multiyear offline land surface model run. A third topic examines the soil water budget in response to these systematic increments. For a number of Mediterranean locations the increments successfully increase the surface evaporation, as is expected from the fact that atmospheric moisture deficit information is the key driver of soil moisture adjustment. In many other locations, however, evaporation is constrained by the experimental SCM setup and is hardly affected by the data assimilation. Instead, a major portion of the increments eventually leave the soil as runoff. In the fourth topic observed evaporation is used to evaluate the impact of the data assimilation on the forecast quality. In most cases, the difference between the control and data assimilation runs is considerably smaller than the (positive) difference between any of the simulations and the observations.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)116-131
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Cite this