Sub-grid scale precipitation in ALCMs: re-assessing the land surface sensitivity using a single column model

Andrew J. Pitman*, Zong-Liang Yang, Ann Henderson-Sellers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    The sensitivity of a land surface scheme to the distribution of precipitation within a general circulation model's grid element is investigated. Earlier experiments which showed considerable sensitivity of the runoff and evaporation simulation to the distribution of precipitation are repeated in the light of other results which show no sensitivity of evaporation to the distribution of precipitation. Results show that while the earlier results over-estimated the sensitivity of the surface hydrology to the precipitation distribution, the general conclusion that the system is sensitive is supported. It is found that changing the distribution of precipitation from falling over 100% of the grid square to falling over 10% leads to a reduction in evaporation from 1578 mm y-1 to 1195 mm y -1 while runoff increases from 278 mm y-1 to 602 mm y-1. The sensitivity is explained in terms of evaporation being dominated by available energy when precipitation falls over nearly the entire grid square, but by moisture availability (mainly intercepted water) when it falls over little of the grid square. These results also indicate that earlier work using stand-alone forcing to drive land surface schemes 'off-line', and to investigate the sensitivity of land surface codes to various parameters, leads to results which are non-repeatable in single column simulations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-41
    Number of pages9
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 1993


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