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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-535
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-535
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 04 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 04 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

The pan-tropical response of soil moisture to El Niño

Kurt C. Solander1, Brent D. Newman1, Alessandro Carioca de Aruajo2, Holly R. Barnard3, Z. Carter Berry4, Damien Bonal5, Mario Bretfeld6,13, Benoit Burban7, Luiz Antonio Candido8, Rolando Célleri9, Jeffery Q. Chambers10, Bradley O. Christoffersen11, Matteo Detto12,13, Wouter A. Dorigo14, Brent E. Ewers15, Savio José Filgueiras Ferreira8, Alexander Knohl16, L. Ruby Leung17, Nate G. McDowell17, Gretchen R. Miller18, Maria Terezinha Ferreira Monteiro19, Georgianne W. Moore20, Robinson Negron-Juarez10, Scott R. Saleska21, Christian Stiegler16, Javier Tomasella22, and Chonggang Xu1 Kurt C. Solander et al.
  • 1Earth and Environmental Sciences, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM
  • 2Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, Manaus, Brazil
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • 4Schmid College of Science and Technology, Chapman University, Orange, CA
  • 5Université de Lorraine, AgroParisTech, INRA, UMR Silva F-54000, Nancy, France
  • 6Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA
  • 7INRA, UMR EcoFoG, AgroParisTech, Cirad, CNRS, Université des Antilles, Université de Guyane, Kourou, France
  • 8Coordination of Environmental Dynamics, National Institute for Amazonia Research, Manuas, Brazil
  • 9Department of Water Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador
  • 10Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA
  • 11Department of Biology, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX
  • 12Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
  • 13Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Panama
  • 14Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 15Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
  • 16Bioclimatology, University of Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany
  • 17Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA
  • 18Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
  • 19Climate and Environment, National Institute for Amazonia Research, Manaus, Brazil
  • 20Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
  • 21Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  • 22Coordination of Research and Development, National Centre for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters, Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil

Abstract. The 2015–16 El Niño event ranks as one of the most severe on record in terms of the magnitude and extent of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies generated in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Corresponding global impacts on the climate were expected to rival, or even surpass, those of the 1997–98 severe El Niño event, which had SST anomalies that were similar in size. However, the 2015–16 event failed to meet expectations for hydrologic change in many areas, including those expected to receive well above normal precipitation. To better understand how climate anomalies during an El Niño event impact soil moisture, we investigate changes in soil moisture in the humid tropics (between ±25°) during the three most recent super El Niño events of 1982–83, 1997–98, and 2015–16, using data from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS). First, we validate the soil moisture estimates from GLDAS through comparison with in-situ observations obtained from 16 sites across five continents, showing an r2 of 0.54. Next, we apply a k-means cluster analysis to the soil moisture estimates during the El Niño mature phase, resulting in four groups of clustered data. The strongest and most consistent decreases in soil moisture occur in the Amazon basin and maritime southeast Asia, while the most consistent increases occur over east Africa. In addition, we compare changes in soil moisture to both precipitation and evapotranspiration, which showed a lack of agreement in the direction of change between these variables and soil moisture most prominently in the southern Amazon basin, Sahel and mainland southeast Asia. Our results can be used to improve estimates of spatiotemporal differences in El Niño impacts on soil moisture in tropical hydrology and ecosystem models at multiple scales.

Kurt C. Solander et al.
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Kurt C. Solander et al.
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Short summary
We evaluate the soil moisture response in the humid tropics to El Niño during the three most recent super El Niño events. Our estimates are compared to in-situ soil moisture estimates that span five continents. We find the strongest and most consistent soil moisture decreases in the Amazon and maritime southeast Asia, while the most consistent increases occur over east Africa. Our results can be used to improve estimates of soil moisture in tropical ecohydrology models at multiple scales.
We evaluate the soil moisture response in the humid tropics to El Niño during the three most...
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