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Effect of water table dynamics on land surface hydrologic memory

  • Author(s): Lo, Min-Hui
  • Famiglietti, James S
  • et al.
Abstract

The representation of groundwater dynamics in land surface models has received considerable attention in recent years. Most studies have found that soil moisture increases after adding a groundwater component because of the additional supply of water to the root zone. However, the effect of groundwater on land surface hydrologic memory (persistence) has not been explored thoroughly. In this study we investigate the effect of water table dynamics on National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Land Model hydrologic simulations in terms of land surface hydrologic memory. Unlike soil water or evapotranspiration, results show that land surface hydrologic memory does not always increase after adding a groundwater component. In regions where the water table level is intermediate, land surface hydrologic memory can even decrease, which occurs when soil moisture and capillary rise from groundwater are not in phase with each other. Further, we explore the hypothesis that in addition to atmospheric forcing, groundwater variations may also play an important role in affecting land surface hydrologic memory. Analyses show that feedbacks of groundwater on land surface hydrologic memory can be positive, negative, or neutral, depending on water table dynamics. In regions where the water table is shallow, the damping process of soil moisture variations by groundwater is not significant, and soil moisture variations are mostly controlled by random noise from atmospheric forcing. In contrast, in regions where the water table is very deep, capillary fluxes from groundwater are small, having limited potential to affect soil moisture variations. Therefore, a positive feedback of groundwater to land surface hydrologic memory is observed in a transition zone between deep and shallow water tables, where capillary fluxes act as a buffer by reducing high-frequency soil moisture variations resulting in longer land surface hydrologic memory.

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