An empirical latent heat flux parameterization for the Noah land surface model

Christopher M. Godfrey, David J. Stensrud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Proper partitioning of the surface energy fluxes that drive the evolution of the planetary boundary layer in numerical weather prediction models requires an accurate representation of initial land surface conditions. Unfortunately, soil temperature and moisture observations are unavailable in most areas and routine daily estimates of vegetation coverage and biomass are not easily available. This gap in observational capabilities seriously hampers the evaluation and improvement of land surface parameterizations, since model errors likely relate to improper initial conditions as much as to inaccuracies in the parameterizations. Two unique datasets help to overcome these difficulties. First, 1-km fractional vegetation coverage and leaf area index values can be derived from biweekly maximum normalized difference vegetation index composites obtained from daily observations by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer onboard NOAA satellites. Second, the Oklahoma Mesonet supplies multiple soil temperature and moisture measurements at various soil depths each hour. Combined, these two datasets provide significantly improved initial conditions for a land surface model and allow an evaluation of the accuracy of the land surface model with much greater confidence than previously. Forecasts that both include and neglect these unique land surface observations are used to evaluate the value of these two data sources to land surface initializations. The dense network of surface observations afforded by the Oklahoma Mesonet, including surface flux data derived from special sensors, provides verification of the model results, which indicate that predicted latent heat fluxes still differ from observations by as much as 150 W m-2. This result provides a springboard for assessing parameterization errors within the model. A new empirical parameterization developed using principal-component regression reveals simple relationships between latent heat flux and other surface observations. Periods of very dry conditions observed across Oklahoma are used advantageously to derive a parameterization for evaporation from bare soil. Combining this parameterization with an empirical canopy transpiration scheme yields improved sensible and latent heat flux forecasts and better partitioning of the surface energy budget. Surface temperature and mixing ratio forecasts show improvement when compared with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1696-1713
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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