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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 17, issue 9 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 3523-3542, 2013
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-17-3523-2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 13 Sep 2013

Research article | 13 Sep 2013

Potential and limitations of multidecadal satellite soil moisture observations for selected climate model evaluation studies

A. Loew1, T. Stacke1, W. Dorigo2, R. de Jeu3, and S. Hagemann1 A. Loew et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, KlimaCampus, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Department of Geodesy and Geo-Information, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. Soil moisture is an essential climate variable (ECV) of major importance for land–atmosphere interactions and global hydrology. An appropriate representation of soil moisture dynamics in global climate models is therefore important. Recently, a first multidecadal, observation-based soil moisture dataset has become available that provides information on soil moisture dynamics from satellite observations (ECVSM, essential climate variable soil moisture). The present study investigates the potential and limitations of this new dataset for several applications in climate model evaluation. We compare soil moisture data from satellite observations, reanalysis and simulations from a state-of-the-art land surface model and analyze relationships between soil moisture and precipitation anomalies in the different dataset. Other potential applications like model parameter optimization or model initialization are not investigated in the present study. In a detailed regional study, we show that ECVSM is capable to capture well the interannual and intraannual soil moisture and precipitation dynamics in the Sahelian region. Current deficits of the new dataset are critically discussed and summarized at the end of the paper to provide guidance for an appropriate usage of the ECVSM dataset for climate studies.

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