Climate Dynamics, Volume 55, Issue 1-2

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
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Evaluation of convection-permitting WRF CONUS simulation on the relationship between soil moisture and heatwaves
Zhe Zhang | Yanping Li | Fei Chen | Michael Barlage | Zhenhua Li

Soil moisture plays an important role in modulating regional climate from sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales. Particularly important, soil moisture deficits can amplify summer heatwaves (HWs) through soil moisture-temperature feedback which has critical impacts on society, economy and human health. In this study, we evaluate decade-long convection-permitting Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model simulations over the contiguous US on simulating heatwaves and their relationship with antecedent soil moisture using a dense observational network. We showed that the WRF model is capable of capturing the spatial patten of temperature threshold to define HWs, though the simulation shows a warm bias in the Midwest and cold bias in western mountainous regions. Two HW indices, based on frequency (HWF) and magnitude (HWM), are evaluated. Significant anti-correlations between antecedent soil moisture and both HW indices have been found in most parts of the domain except the South Pacific Coast. A detailed study has been conducted for the Midwest and South Great Plains regions, where two heatwaves had occurred in the last decade. In both regions, the high quantile of the HWF distribution shows a strong dependence on antecedent soil moisture: drier soil leads to much larger increase on the upper quantile of HWF than it does on the lower quantile. Soil moisture effects on the higher end of HWM are not as strong as on the lower end: wetter antecedent soil corresponds to a larger decrease on the lower quantile of HWM. WRF captures the heterogeneous responses to dry soil on HWF distribution in both regions, but overestimates these HWM responses in the Midwest and underestimates them in the South Great Plains. Our results show confidence in WRF’s ability to simulate HW characteristics and the impacts of antecedent soil moisture on HWs. These are also important implications for using high-resolution convection-permitting mode to study the coupling between land and atmosphere.