Soil Moisture Impacts on Convective Precipitation in Oklahoma
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Soil moisture is vital to the climate system, as root zone soil moisture has a significant influence on evapotranspiration rates and latent and sensible heat exchange. Through the modification of moisture flux from the land surface to the atmosphere, soil moisture can impact regional temperature and precipitation. Despite a wealth of studies examining land-atmosphere interactions, model and observation-driven studies show conflicting results with regard to the sign and strength of soil moisture feedback to precipitation, particularly in the Southern Great Plains of the United States. This research provides observational evidence for a preferential dry (or negative) soil moisture feedback to precipitation in Oklahoma. The ability of soil moisture to impact the location and occurrence of afternoon convective precipitation is constrained by synoptic-scale atmospheric circulation and resulting mid- and low-level wind patterns and sensible and latent heat flux. Overall, the preference for precipitation initiation over dry soils is enhanced when regional soil moisture gradients exhibit a weakened east to west, wet to dry pattern. Based on these results, we conclude that soil moisture can modify atmospheric conditions potentially leading to convective initiation. However, the land surface feedback signal is weak at best, suggesting that regional-scale circulation is the dominant driver of warm season precipitation in the Southern Great Plains.
Ford, Trenton (2015). Soil Moisture Impacts on Convective Precipitation in Oklahoma. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from