Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Vegetation controls on surface heat flux partitioning, and land-atmosphere coupling
- Author(s): Williams, IN
- Torn, MS
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015GL066305
© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. We provide observational evidence that land-atmosphere coupling is underestimated by a conventional metric defined by the correlation between soil moisture and surface evaporative fraction (latent heat flux normalized by the sum of sensible and latent heat flux). Land-atmosphere coupling is 3 times stronger when using leaf area index as a correlate of evaporative fraction instead of soil moisture, in the Southern Great Plains. The role of vegetation was confirmed using adjacent flux measurement sites having identical atmospheric forcing but different vegetation phenology. Transpiration makes the relationship between evaporative fraction and soil moisture nonlinear and gives the appearance of weak coupling when using linear soil moisture metrics. Regions of substantial coupling extend to semiarid and humid continental climates across the United States, in terms of correlations between vegetation metrics and evaporative fraction. The hydrological cycle is more tightly constrained by the land surface than previously inferred from soil moisture.