The effect of soil thermal conductivity parameterization on surface energy fluxes and temperatures

C. D. Peters-Lidard, E. Blackburn, X. Liang, Eric F. Wood

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304 Scopus citations


The sensitivity of sensible and latent heat fluxes and surface temperatures to the parameterization of the soil thermal conductivity is demonstrated using a soil vegetation atmosphere transfer scheme (SVATS) applied to intensive field campaigns (IFCs) 3 and 4 of the First ISLSCP (International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project) Field Experiment (FIFE). In particular, the commonly used function for soil thermal conductivity presented by M. C. McCumber and R. A. Pielke results in overestimation during wet periods and underestimation during dry periods, as confirmed with thermal conductivity data collected at the FIFE site. The ground heat flux errors affect all components of the energy balance, but are partitioned primarily into the sensible heat flux and surface temperatures in the daytime. At nighttime, errors in the net radiation also become significant in relative terms, although all fluxes are small. In addition, this method erroneously enhances the spatial variability of fluxes associated with soil moisture variability. The authors propose the incorporation of an improved method for predicting thermal conductivity in both frozen and unfrozen soils. This method requires the specification of two additional parameters, and sensitivity studies and tables of recommended parameter values to facilitate the incorporation of this method into SVATS are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1209-1224
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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