Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-357
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
11 Jul 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.
Combined impact of local climate and soil properties on soil moisture patterns
Thushara Gunda1, Udeni P. Nawagamuwa2, and George M. Hornberger1 1Vanderbilt University Institute for Energy and the Environment, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
2Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Katubedda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (10400)
Abstract. Soil plays a key role in terrestrial water dynamics by retaining precipitation on land. A water balance approach is used to evaluate spatial and temporal variations in soil moisture in Sri Lanka, a country characterized by high spatial variability as reflected in the recognition of three regions of the country, the wet zone, the intermediate zone, and the dry zone. We show that a combination of local climate and soil properties drive spatial patterns of soil moisture deficits on the island, with soils buffering climate variability in the wet zone and enhancing drought patterns in the dry zone. Changes in historical temporal patterns are most notable for the intermediate zone, a region characterized by consistently variable deficits. Counterfactuals of climate change scenarios indicate temperature will drive increases in deficit likelihoods (up to 20 %) in the future, with greatest impact in the intermediate and dry zones, where more than 80 % of the national rice production is concentrated. Given that temperature projections are less uncertain than other climate change impacts, further evaluation of future water stresses are needed. Coupled with remotely-sensed soil moisture data, the findings from this study have implications for infrastructural planning and seasonal crop water allocations in zones with a degree of variability (i.e., neither consistently wet nor consistently dry). Because soil hydrologic regimes reflect inherent, local vulnerabilities, water management decisions need to incorporate regional variabilities in soil moisture dynamics in assessments of climate change adaptations.

Citation: Gunda, T., Nawagamuwa, U. P., and Hornberger, G. M.: Combined impact of local climate and soil properties on soil moisture patterns, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-357, 2017.
Thushara Gunda et al.
Thushara Gunda et al.

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Short summary
Soil properties influence various dynamics, including the amount of water that is retained on land after a precipitation event. Our work highlights that climate regions experience different levels of impacts due to spatial differences in soil properties. Notably, the region of the country with consistently variable soil moisture conditions experienced the greatest impacts both historically and under climate change. These spatial differences should be accounted for in water management decisions.
Soil properties influence various dynamics, including the amount of water that is retained on...
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