Interannual land cover and vegetation variability based on remote sensing data in the HTESSEL land surface model: implementation and effects on simulated water dynamics

Fransje van Oorschot*, Ruud J. van der Ent, M. Hrachowitz, Emanuele Di Carlo, Franco Catalano, Souhail Boussetta, Gianpaolo Balsamo, Andrea Alessandri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Vegetation largely controls land surface–atmosphere interactions. Although vegetation is highly dynamic across spatial and temporal scales, most land surface models currently used for reanalyses and near-term climate predictions do not adequately represent these dynamics. This causes deficiencies in the variability of modeled water and energy states and fluxes from the land surface. In this study we evaluated the effects of integrating spatially and temporally varying land cover and vegetation characteristics derived from satellite observations on modeled evaporation and soil moisture in the Hydrology Tiled ECMWF Scheme for Surface Exchanges over Land (HTESSEL) land surface model. Specifically, we integrated interannually varying land cover from the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative and interannually varying leaf area index (LAI) from the Copernicus Global Land Services (CGLS). Additionally, satellite data on the fraction of green vegetation cover (FCover) from CGLS were used to formulate and integrate a spatially and temporally varying effective vegetation cover parameterization. The effects of these three implementations on model evaporation fluxes and soil moisture were analyzed using historical offline (land-only) model experiments at the global scale, and model performances were quantified with global observational products of evaporation (E) and near-surface soil moisture (SMs). The interannually varying land cover consistently altered the evaporation and soil moisture in regions with major land cover changes. The interannually varying LAI considerably improved the correlation of SMs and E with respect to the reference data, with the largest improvements in semiarid regions with predominantly low vegetation during the dry season. These improvements are related to the activation of soil moisture–evaporation feedbacks during vegetation-water-stressed periods with interannually varying LAI in combination with interannually varying effective vegetation cover, defined as an exponential function of LAI. The further improved effective vegetation cover parameterization consistently reduced the errors of model effective vegetation cover, and it regionally improved SMs and E. Overall, our study demonstrated that the enhanced vegetation variability consistently improved the near-surface soil moisture and evaporation variability, but the availability of reliable global observational data remains a limitation for complete understanding of the model response. To further explain the improvements found, we developed an interpretation framework for how the model development activates feedbacks between soil moisture, vegetation, and evaporation during vegetation water stress periods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1259
Number of pages21
JournalEarth System Dynamics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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