Continental-scale water and energy flux analysis and validation for the North American Land Data Assimilation System project phase 2 (NLDAS-2): 1. Intercomparison and application of model products

Youlong Xia, Kenneth Mitchell, Michael Ek, Justin Sheffield, Brian Cosgrove, Eric F. Wood, Lifeng Luo, Charles Alonge, Helin Wei, Jesse Meng, Ben Livneh, Dennis Lettenmaier, Victor Koren, Qingyun Duan, Kingtse Mo, Yun Fan, David Mocko

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704 Scopus citations


Results are presented from the second phase of the multiinstitution North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS-2) research partnership. In NLDAS, the Noah, Variable Infiltration Capacity, Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting, and Mosaic land surface models (LSMs) are executed over the conterminous U.S. (CONUS) in realtime and retrospective modes. These runs support the drought analysis, monitoring and forecasting activities of the National Integrated Drought Information System, as well as efforts to monitor large-scale floods. NLDAS-2 builds upon the framework of the first phase of NLDAS (NLDAS-1) by increasing the accuracy and consistency of the surface forcing data, upgrading the land surface model code and parameters, and extending the study from a 3-year (1997-1999) to a 30-year (1979-2008) time window. As the first of two parts, this paper details the configuration of NLDAS-2, describes the upgrades to the forcing, parameters, and code of the four LSMs, and explores overall model-to-model comparisons of land surface water and energy flux and state variables over the CONUS. Focusing on model output rather than on observations, this study seeks to highlight the similarities and differences between models, and to assess changes in output from that seen in NLDAS-1. The second part of the two-part article focuses on the validation of model-simulated streamflow and evaporation against observations. The results depict a higher level of agreement among the four models over much of the CONUS than was found in the first phase of NLDAS. This is due, in part, to recent improvements in the parameters, code, and forcing of the NLDAS-2 LSMs that were initiated following NLDAS-1. However, large inter-model differences still exist in the northeast, Lake Superior, and western mountainous regions of the CONUS, which are associated with cold season processes. In addition, variations in the representation of sub-surface hydrology in the four LSMs lead to large differences in modeled evaporation and subsurface runoff. These issues are important targets for future research by the land surface modeling community. Finally, improvement from NLDAS-1 to NLDAS-2 is summarized by comparing the streamflow measured from U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges with that simulated by four NLDAS models over 961 small basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD03109
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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