Soil Moisture-Temperature Coupling in a Set of Land Surface Models

A. I. Gevaert*, D. G. Miralles, R. A.M. de Jeu, J. Schellekens, A. J. Dolman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The land surface controls the partitioning of water and energy fluxes and therefore plays a crucial role in the climate system. The coupling between soil moisture and air temperature, in particular, has been shown to affect the severity and occurrence of temperature extremes and heat waves. Here we study soil moisture-temperature coupling in five land surface models, focusing on the terrestrial segment of the coupling in the warm season. All models are run off-line over a common period with identical atmospheric forcing data, in order to allow differences in the results to be attributed to the models' partitioning of energy and water fluxes. Coupling is calculated according to two semiempirical metrics, and results are compared to observational flux tower data. Results show that the locations of the global hot spots of soil moisture-temperature coupling are similar across all models and for both metrics. In agreement with previous studies, these areas are located in transitional climate regimes. The magnitude and local patterns of model coupling, however, can vary considerably. Model coupling fields are compared to tower data, bearing in mind the limitations in the geographical distribution of flux towers and the differences in representative area of models and in situ data. Nevertheless, model coupling correlates in space with the tower-based results (r = 0.5–0.7), with the multimodel mean performing similarly to the best-performing model. Intermodel differences are also found in the evaporative fractions and may relate to errors in model parameterizations and ancillary data of soil and vegetation characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1498
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number3
Early online date28 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2018


  • eartH2Observe
  • land surface models
  • land-atmosphere interactions
  • soil moisture
  • temperature


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil Moisture-Temperature Coupling in a Set of Land Surface Models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this