In semiarid regions, where water resources are limited and precipitation dynamics are changing, understanding land surface-atmosphere interactions that regulate the coupled soil moistureprecipitation system is key for resource management and planning. We present a modeling approach to study soil moisture and albedo controls on planetary boundary layer height (PBLh). We used Santa Rita Creosote Ameriflux and Tucson Airport atmospheric sounding data to generate empirical relationships between soil moisture, albedo, and PBLh. Empirical relationships showed that ~50% of the variation in PBLh can be explained by soil moisture and albedo with additional knowledge gained by dividing the soil profile into two layers. Therefore, we coupled these empirical relationships with soil moisture estimated using a two-layer bucket approach to model PBLh under six precipitation scenarios. Overall we observed that decreases in precipitation tend to limit the recovery of the PBL at the end of the wet season. However, increases in winter precipitation despite decreases in summer precipitation may provide opportunities for positive feedbacks that may further generate more winter precipitation. Our results highlight that the response of soil moisture, albedo, and the PBLh will depend not only on changes in annual precipitation, but also on the frequency and intensity of this change. We argue that because albedo and soil moisture data are readily available at multiple temporal and spatial scales, developing empirical relationships that can be used in land surface-atmosphere applications have great potential for exploring the consequences of climate change.
Sanchez-Mejia, Z. M., & Papuga, S. A. (2017). Empirical modeling of planetary boundary layer dynamics under multiple precipitation scenarios using a two-layer soil moisture approach: An example from a semiarid shrubland. Water Resources Research, 53, 8807–8824. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016WR020275