Observed soil moisture-precipitation feedback in Illinois: A systematic analysis over different scales

H. M. Duerinck*, R. J. van der Ent, N. C. van de Giesen, G. Schoups, V. Babovic, Pat J F Yeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The lack of understanding on the soil moisture-precipitation feedback mechanisms remains a large source of uncertainty for land-atmosphere coupled models. Previous observation-based studies on the soil moisture-precipitation feedback in Illinois have shown contradictory results. This paper extends earlier research by providing a more holistic analysis considering different scales based on an 11-yr (2003-13) hourly soil moisture dataset, which makes it possible to revisit the disputed hypothesis on the correlation between warm-season soil moisture and subsequent precipitation. This study finds a strong positive correlation between late spring/early summer state-average soil moisture at the root-zone depths and subsequent state-average summer precipitation. On the daily to weekly time scale, however, no relation is found. Moreover, regional analysis suggests that precipitation variability over central Illinois can be best explained by the soil moisture variability in northwest Illinois. Using a back-trajectory method [Water Accounting Model-2 layers (WAM-2layers)] from May to July, the evaporative sources of precipitation in Illinois are identified. The pattern of the source regions shows little interannual variability, while the strength of the sources changes significantly and the Gulf of Mexico contributes more during wet years. However, strong influences (teleconnections) of sea surface temperatures on the subsequent precipitation variability in Illinois are not found on a seasonal scale. The long time scale of the soil moisture-precipitation correlation and the weak influences of SSTs and climate indices may suggest that precipitation variability in spring/summer in Illinois is mostly related to continental-scale soil moisture-precipitation feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1660
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Circulation/dynamics
  • Feedback
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Mathematical and statistical techniques
  • North America
  • Physical meteorology and climatology
  • Regression analysis
  • Soil moisture
  • Trajectories


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