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An efficient approach to modeling the topographic control of surface hydrology for regional and global climate modeling

An efficient approach to modeling the topographic control of surface hydrology for regional and global climate modeling

Journal of climate 10(1): 118-137

The current generation of land-surface models used in GCMs view the soil column as the fundamental hydrologic unit. While this may be effective in simulating such processes as the evolution of ground temperatures and the growth/ablation of a snowpack at the soil plot scale, it effectively ignores the role topography plays in the development of soil moisture heterogeneity and the subsequent impacts of this soil moisture heterogeneity on watershed evapotranspiration and the partitioning of surface fluxes. This view also ignores the role topography plays in the timing of discharge and the partitioning of discharge into surface runoff and baseflow. In this paper an approach to land-surface modeling is presented that allows us to view the watershed as the fundamental hydrologic unit. The analytic form of TOPMODEL equations are incorporated into the soil column framework and the resulting model is used to predict the saturated fraction of the watershed and baseflow in a consistent fashion. Soil moisture heterogeneity represented by saturated lowlands subsequently impacts the partitioning of surface fluxes, including evapotranspiration and runoff. The approach is computationally efficient, allows for a greatly improved simulation of the hydrologic cycle, and is easily coupled into the existing framework of the current generation of single column land-surface models. Because this approach uses the statistics of the topography rather than the details of the topography, it is compatible with the large spatial scales of today's regional and global climate models. Five years of meteorological and hydrological data from the Sleepers River watershed located in the northeastern United States where winter snow cover is significant were used to drive the new model. Site validation data were sufficient to evaluate model performance with regard to various aspects of the watershed water balance, including snowpack growth/ablation, the spring snowmelt hydrograph, storm hydrographs, and the seasonal development of watershed evapotranspiration and soil moisture.

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