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An underestimated role of precipitation frequency in regulating summer soil moisture

Wu, Chaoyang; Chen, Jing M.; Pumpanen, Jukka; Cescatti, Alessandro; Marcella, Barbara; Blanken, Peter D.; Ardo, Jonas; Tang, Yanhong; Magliulo, Vincenzo; Georgiadis, Teodoro; Soegaard, Henrik; Cook, David R.; Harding, Richard J.. 2012 An underestimated role of precipitation frequency in regulating summer soil moisture. Environmental Research Letters, 7 (2), 024011. 9, pp. 10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024011

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Abstract/Summary

Soil moisture induced droughts are expected to become more frequent under future global climate change. Precipitation has been previously assumed to be mainly responsible for variability in summer soil moisture. However, little is known about the impacts of precipitation frequency on summer soil moisture, either interannually or spatially. To better understand the temporal and spatial drivers of summer drought, 415 site yr measurements observed at 75 flux sites world wide were used to analyze the temporal and spatial relationships between summer soil water content (SWC) and the precipitation frequencies at various temporal scales, i.e., from half-hourly, 3, 6, 12 and 24 h measurements. Summer precipitation was found to be an indicator of interannual SWC variability with r of 0.49 (p < 0.001) for the overall dataset. However, interannual variability in summer SWC was also significantly correlated with the five precipitation frequencies and the sub-daily precipitation frequencies seemed to explain the interannual SWC variability better than the total of precipitation. Spatially, all these precipitation frequencies were better indicators of summer SWC than precipitation totals, but these better performances were only observed in non-forest ecosystems. Our results demonstrate that precipitation frequency may play an important role in regulating both interannual and spatial variations of summer SWC, which has probably been overlooked or underestimated. However, the spatial interpretation should carefully consider other factors, such as the plant functional types and soil characteristics of diverse ecoregions.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024011
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 onwards > Water > WA Topic 3 - Science for Water Management > WA - 3.2 - Assessment of available water resources in a changing world ...
CEH Sections: Directors, SPCs
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 27 Apr 2012 13:08
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/17888

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