Scaling characteristics of spatial patterns of soil moisture from distributed modelling

Salvatore Manfreda, Matthew F. McCabe, Mauro Fiorentino, Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Characterizing the spatial dynamics of soil moisture fields is a key issue in hydrology, offering an avenue to improve our understanding of complex land surface-atmosphere interactions. In this paper, the statistical structure of soil moisture patterns is examined using modelled soil moisture obtained from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) at 0.125° resolution. The study focuses on the vertically averaged soil moisture in the top 10 cm and 100 cm layers. The two variables display a weak dependence for lower values of surface soil moisture, with the strength of the relationship increasing with the water content of the top layer. In both cases, the variance of the soil moisture follows a power law decay as a function of the averaging area. The superficial layer shows a lower degree of spatial organization and higher temporal variability, which is reflected in rapid changes in time of the slope of the scaling functions of the soil moisture variance. Conversely, the soil moisture in the top 100 cm has lower variability in time and larger spatial correlation. The scaling of these patterns was found to be controlled by the changes in the soil water content. Results have implications for the downscaling of soil moisture to prevent model bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2145-2150
Number of pages6
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Hydrological modelling
  • Scaling
  • Soil moisture fields
  • Spatial patterns


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