Multimodel ensemble reconstruction of drought over the continental United States


Wang, A., Bohn, T.J., Mahanama, S.P., Koster, R.D., Lettenmaier, D.P. 2009. Multimodel ensemble reconstruction of drought over the continental United States. Journal of Climate 22(10): 2694-2712.


Retrospectively simulated soil moisture from an ensemble of six land surface/hydrological models was used to reconstruct drought events over the continental United States for the period 1920-2003. The simulations were performed at one-half-degree spatial resolution, using a common set of atmospheric forcing data and model-specific soil and vegetation parameters. Monthly simulated soil moisture was converted to percentiles using Weibull plotting position statistics, and the percentiles were then used to represent drought severities and durations. An ensemble method, based on an inverse mapping of the average of the individual model’s soil moisture percentiles, was also used to combine all models’ simulations.

Major results are 1) all models and the ensemble reconstruct the known severe drought events during the last century. The spatial extents and severities of drought are plausible for the individual models although substantial among-model disparities exist. 2) The simulations are in more agreement with each other over the eastern than over the western United States. 3) Most of the models show that soil moisture memory is much longer over the western than over the eastern United States. The results provide some insights into how a hydrological nowcast system can be developed, and also early results from a test application within the University of Washington’s real-time national Surface Water Monitor and a review of the multimodel nowcasts during the southeastern drought beginning in summer 2007 are included.