Effects of initial soil moisture on rainfall generation and subsequent hydrologic response during the North American monsoon

Enrique R. Vivoni, Kinwai Tai, David J. Gochis

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40 Scopus citations


Through the use of a mesoscale meteorological model and distributed hydrologic model, the effects of initial soil moisture on rainfall generation, streamflow, and evapotranspiration during the North American monsoon are examined. A collection of atmospheric fields is simulated by varying initial soil moisture in the meteorological model. Analysis of the simulated rainfall fields shows that the total rainfall, intensity, and spatial coverage increase with higher soil moisture. Hydrologic simulations forced by the meteorological fields are performed using two scenarios: (i) fixed soil moisture initializations obtained via a drainage experiment in the hydrologic model and (ii) adjusted initializations to match conditions in the two models. The scenarios indicate that the runoff ratio increases with higher rainfall, although a change is observed from a linear (fixed initialization) to a nonlinear response (adjusted initialization). Variations in basin response are attributed to controls exerted by rainfall, soil, and vegetation properties for varying initial conditions. Antecedent wetness significantly influences the runoff response through the interplay of different runoff generation mechanisms and also controls the evapotranspiration process. The authors conclude that a regional increase in initial soil moisture promotes rainfall generation, streamflow, and evapotranspiration for this warm-season case study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-664
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 6 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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