Surface representation impacts on turbulent heat fluxes in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model (v.4.1.3)

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The water and energy transfers at the interface between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere should be correctly simulated in numerical weather and climate models. This implies the need for a realistic and accurate representation of land cover (LC), including appropriate parameters for each vegetation type. In some cases, the lack of information and crude representation of the surface lead to errors in the simulation of soil and atmospheric variables. This work investigates the ability of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to simulate surface heat fluxes in a heterogeneous area of southern France using several possibilities for the surface representation. In the control experiments, we used the default LC database in WRF, which differed significantly from the actual LC. In addition, sub-grid variability was not taken into account since the model uses, by default, only the surface information from the dominant LC category in each pixel (dominant approach). To improve this surface simplification, we designed three new interconnected numerical experiments with three widely used land surface models (LSMs) in WRF. The first one consisted of using a more realistic and higher-resolution LC dataset over the area of analysis. The second experiment aimed at investigating the effect of using a mosaic approach; 30 m sub-grid surface information was used to calculate the final grid fluxes based on weighted averages from values obtained for each LC category. Finally, in the third experiment, we increased the model stomatal conductance for conifer forests due to the large flux errors associated with this vegetation type in some LSMs. The simulations were evaluated with gridded area-averaged fluxes calculated from five tower measurements obtained during the Boundary-Layer Late Afternoon and Sunset Turbulence (BLLAST) field campaign. The results from the experiments differed depending on the LSM and displayed a high dependency of the simulated fluxes on the specific LC definition within the grid cell, an effect that was enhanced with the dominant approach. The simulation of the fluxes improved using the more realistic LC dataset except for the LSMs that included extreme surface parameters for coniferous forest. The mosaic approach produced fluxes more similar to reality and served to particularly improve the latent heat flux simulation of each grid cell. Therefore, our findings stress the need to include an accurate surface representation in the model, including soil and vegetation sub-grid information with updated surface parameters for some vegetation types, as well as seasonal and man-made changes. This will improve the modelled heat fluxes and ultimately yield more realistic atmospheric processes in the model.
© Author(s) 2021. The BLLAST field experiment was made possible thanks to the contribution of several institutions and supporting partners: INSU-CNRS (Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers, Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, LEFE-IDAO programme), Météo-France, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (University of Toulouse), EUFAR (EUropean Facility for Airborne Research), and COST ES0802 (European Cooperation in Science and Technology). The field experiment would not have occurred without the contribution of all participating European and American research groups, which all have contributed a significant amount. The BLLAST field experiment was hosted by the instrumented site of the Centre de Recherches Atmosphériques, Lannemezan, France (Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Laboratoire d'Aérologie). The 60 m tower is partly supported by the POCTEFA/FLUXPYR European programme. BLLAST data are managed by SEDOO, from Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, and maintained by the French national data centre Data Terra/AERIS. The French ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) supported BLLAST analysis in the BLLAST_A project. Thanks to the National Centers for Environmental Protection (NCEP) for the NCEP FNL (final) Operational Model Global Tropospheric Analyses data, continuing from July 1999 (NCEP, 2000), which were used to initialize the WRF model. Thanks to CESBIO for the land cover data and for the soil moisture data from the DISPATCH soil moisture product used to test some initial conditions, especially Olivier Merlin and Nitu Ojha. Finally, we would like to thank Wayne Angevine and the anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions during the revision of this paper. This research has been supported by the US National Science Foundation (grant no. PDM-1649067) and the Spanish government projects (grant nos. CGL2015-65627-C3-3-R and CGL2016-75996-R) (MINECO/FEDER). This work also takes part in the Modelisation and Observation of Surface/Atmosphere Interaction (MOSAI) project supported by ANR, which leans on ACTRIS-FR infrastructure research. Thanks also to the OCASO project (ref. 0223_OCASO_5_E) for access to the server used to run the WRF model. Carlos Román-Cascón's work was funded through a postdoctoral grant from the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES).