Real-time and retrospective forcing in the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) project

Brian A. Cosgrove, Dag Lohmann, Kenneth E. Mitchell, Paul R. Houser, Eric F. Wood, John C. Schaake, Alan Robock, Curtis Marshall, Justin Sheffield, Qingyun Duan, Lifeng Luo, R. Wayne Higgins, Rachel T. Pinker, J. Dan Tarpley, Jesse Meng

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490 Scopus citations


The accuracy of forcing data greatly impacts the ability of land surface models (LSMs) to produce realistic simulations of land surface processes. With this in mind, the multi-institutional North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) project has produced retrospective (1996-2002) and real-time (1999-present) data sets to support its LSM modeling activities. Featuring 0.125° spatial resolution, hourly temporal resolution, nine primary forcing fields, and six secondary validation/model development fields, each data set is based on a backbone of Eta Data Assimilation System/Eta data and is supplemented with observation-based precipitation and radiation data. Hourly observation-based precipitation data are derived from a combination of daily National Center for Environmental Prediction Climate Prediction Center (CPC) gauge-based precipitation analyses and hourly National Weather Service Doppler radar-based (WSR-88D) precipitation analyses, wherein the hourly radar-based analyses are used to temporally disaggregate the daily CPC analyses. NLDAS observation-based shortwave values are derived from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite radiation data processed at the University of Maryland and at the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service. Extensive quality control and validation efforts have been conducted on the NLDAS forcing data sets, and favorable comparisons have taken place with Oklahoma Mesonet, Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program/cloud and radiation test bed, and Surface Radiation observation data. The real-time forcing data set is constantly evolving to make use of the latest advances in forcing-related data sets, and all of the real-time and retrospective data are available online at for visualization and downloading in both full and subset forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)GCP 3-1 - GCP 3-12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 27 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


  • Forcing data
  • LDAS
  • LSM
  • Land surface modeling
  • North American Land Data Assimilation System


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