Articles | Volume 11, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3135–3149, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-3135-2011

Special issue: 12th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3135–3149, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-3135-2011

Research article 05 Dec 2011

Research article | 05 Dec 2011

Impact of ASAR soil moisture data on the MM5 precipitation forecast for the Tanaro flood event of April 2009

G. Panegrossi1, R. Ferretti1,2, L. Pulvirenti3, and N. Pierdicca3 G. Panegrossi et al.
  • 1CETEMPS, University of L'Aquila, Via Vetoio 19, Coppito, AQ, Italy
  • 2Department of Physics, University of L'Aquila, Via Vetoio 19, Coppito, AQ, Italy
  • 3Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications, Sapienza University of Rome, Via Eudossiana 18, 00184 Rome, Italy

Abstract. The representation of land-atmosphere interactions in weather forecast models has a strong impact on the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) and, in turn, on the forecast. Soil moisture is one of the key variables in land surface modelling, and an inadequate initial soil moisture field can introduce major biases in the surface heat and moisture fluxes and have a long-lasting effect on the model behaviour. Detecting the variability of soil characteristics at small scales is particularly important in mesoscale models because of the continued increase of their spatial resolution. In this paper, the high resolution soil moisture field derived from ENVISAT/ASAR observations is used to derive the soil moisture initial condition for the MM5 simulation of the Tanaro flood event of April 2009. The ASAR-derived soil moisture field shows significantly drier conditions compared to the ECMWF analysis. The impact of soil moisture on the forecast has been evaluated in terms of predicted precipitation and rain gauge data available for this event have been used as ground truth. The use of the drier, highly resolved soil moisture content (SMC) shows a significant impact on the precipitation forecast, particularly evident during the early phase of the event. The timing of the onset of the precipitation, as well as the intensity of rainfall and the location of rain/no rain areas, are better predicted. The overall accuracy of the forecast using ASAR SMC data is significantly increased during the first 30 h of simulation. The impact of initial SMC on the precipitation has been related to the change in the water vapour field in the PBL prior to the onset of the precipitation, due to surface evaporation. This study represents a first attempt to establish whether high resolution SAR-based SMC data might be useful for operational use, in anticipation of the launch of the Sentinel-1 satellite.

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