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Advances in Land Data Assimilation at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

By Rolf Reichle


Research in land surface data assimilation has grown rapidly over the last decade. In this presentation we provide a brief overview of key research contributions by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The GSFC contributions to land assimilation primarily include the continued development and application of the Land Information System (US) and the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF). In particular, we have developed a method to generate perturbation fields that are correlated in space, time, and across variables and that permit the flexible modeling of errors in land surface models and observations, along with an adaptive filtering approach that estimates observation and model error input parameters. A percentile-based scaling method that addresses soil moisture biases in model and observational estimates opened the path to the successful application of land data assimilation to satellite retrievals of surface soil moisture. Assimilation of AMSR-E surface soil moisture retrievals into the NASA Catchment model provided superior surface and root zone assimilation products (when validated against in situ measurements and compared to the model estimates or satellite observations alone). The multi-model capabilities of US were used to investigate the role of subsurface physics in the assimilation of surface soil moisture observations. Results indicate that the potential of surface soil moisture assimilation to improve root zone information is higher when the surface to root zone coupling is stronger. Building on this experience, GSFC leads the development of the Level 4 Surface and Root-Zone Soil Moisture (L4_SM) product for the planned NASA Soil-Moisture-Active-Passive (SMAP) mission. A key milestone was the design and execution of an Observing System Simulation Experiment that quantified the contribution of soil moisture retrievals to land data assimilation products as a function of retrieval and land model skill and yielded an estimate of the error budget for the SMAP L4_SM product. Terrestrial water storage observations from GRACE satellite system were also successfully assimilated into the NASA Catchment model and provided improved estimates of groundwater variability when compared to the model estimates alone. Moreover, satellite-based land surface temperature (LST) observations from the ISCCP archive were assimilated using a bias estimation module that was specifically designed for LST assimilation. As with soil moisture, LST assimilation provides modest yet statistically significant improvements when compared to the model or satellite observations alone. To achieve the improvement, however, the LST assimilation algorithm must be adapted to the specific formulation of LST in the land model. An improved method for the assimilation of snow cover observations was also developed. Finally, the coupling of LIS to the mesoscale Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model enabled investigations into how the sensitivity of land-atmosphere interactions to the specific choice of planetary boundary layer scheme and land surface model varies across surface moisture regimes, and how it can be quantified and evaluated against observations. The on-going development and integration of land assimilation modules into the Land Information System will enable the use of GSFC software with a variety of land models and make it accessible to the research community

Topics: Meteorology and Climatology
Year: 2009
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