Soil moisture feedbacks on convection triggers: The role of soil-plant hydrodynamics

Mario Siqueira, Gabriel Katul, Amilcare Porporato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


The linkages between soil moisture dynamics and convection triggers, defined here as the first crossing between the boundary layer height (hBL) and lifting condensation level (hLCL), are complicated by a large number of interacting processes occurring over a wide range of space and time scales. To progress on this problem, a soil-plant hydrodynamics model was coupled to a simplified ABL budget to explore the feedback of soil moisture on convection triggers. The soil-plant hydraulics formulation accounted mechanistically for features such as root water uptake, root water redistribution, and midday stomatal closure, all known to affect diurnal cycles of surface fluxes and, consequently, ABL growth. The ABL model considered the convective boundary layer as a slab with a discontinuity at the inversion layer. The model was parameterized using the wealth of data already collected for a maturing Loblolly pine plantation situated in the southeastern United States. A 30-day dry-down simulation was used to investigate the possible feedback mechanisms between soil moisture and convective rainfall triggers. Previous studies, which made use of surface flux measurements to drive an ABL model, have postulated that a negative feedback was possible, which could award the ecosystem with some degree of self-regulation of its water status. According to model simulation results here, this negative feedback is unlikely. However, drastic changes in external water sources to the ABL are needed for triggering convection when soil moisture is depleted. The apparent negative feedback originated from a decoupling between the water vapor sources needed to produce convection triggers and surface water vapor fluxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-112
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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