Precipitation response to extreme soil moisture conditions over the Mediterranean

Ardilouze, Constantin ; Materia, Stefano ; Batté, Lauriane ; Benassi, Marianna ; Prodhomme, Chloé

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The intimate link between soil moisture and precipitation makes it a "chicken-and-egg situation" that challenges climate studies of the continental water cycle. This association is particularly acute over the Mediterranean, increasingly exposed to droughts with climate change. This study aims at deciphering the impact of spring soil moisture state in the Mediterranean on subsequent warm season precipitation. In an idealized setup, two distinct climate models are used to generate extreme dry or wet soil conditions, and run climate simulations initialized and/or forced by these conditions. Changes in precipitation distribution and persistence are analyzed and where applicable compared to composites from a reanalysis. Spring soil moisture anomalies are found to be very persistent, but the precipitation response is largely model dependent. Overall, dry soils lead to a reduction of precipitation for early summer months and conversely for wet soils although with a fainter and less robust signal. On the other hand, wet soils tend to favor the persistence of precipitation throughout summer over several sub-regions. Our results highlight the stringent need to reduce the wide array of uncertainties associated to soil moisture, land-atmosphere coupling and convection in climate models, before ascertaining that soil moisture initialization could provide more skillful sub-seasonal to seasonal precipitation prediction.</p>

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