Temporal variability of land-Atmosphere coupling and its implications for drought over the Southeast United States

Joshua K. Roundy, Craig R. Ferguson, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Droughts represent a significant source of social and economic damage in the southeast United States. Having sufficient warning of these extreme events enables managers to prepare for and potentially mitigate the severity of their impacts. A seasonal hydrologic forecast system can provide such warning, but current forecast skill is low during the convective season when precipitation is affected by regionally varying land surface heat flux contributions. Previous studies have classified regions into coupling regimes based on the tendency of surface soil moisture anomalies to trigger convective rainfall. Until now, these classifications have been aimed at assessing the long-term dominant feedback signal. Sufficient focus has not been placed on the temporal variability that underlies this signal. To better understand this aspect of coupling, a new classification methodology suitable at daily time scales is developed. The methodology is based on the joint probability space of surface soil moisture, convective triggering potential, and the low-level humidity index. The methodology is demonstrated over the U.S. Southeast using satellite remote sensing, reanalysis, and hydrological model data. The results show strong persistence in coupling events that is linked to the land surface state. A coupling-based drought index shows good agreement with the temporal and spatial variability of drought and highlights the role of coupling in drought recovery. The implications of the findings for drought and forecasting are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-635
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Drought


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