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Land Surface Modeling

Surface Water Hydrology

  1. Xu Liang

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.sw1607

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Liang, X. 2005. Land Surface Modeling. Water Encyclopedia. 3:533–538.

Author Information

  1. University of California, Berkeley, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Land surface modeling consists of developing and applying computational models that integrate complicated hydrologic and physical processes that occur at the land surface, between the land surface and the atmosphere, and within the soil column. A land surface model or macroscale hydrologic model, as these types of models are called, has two important characteristics: (a) it considers processes related to both the energy and water budgets and their interactions, and (b) it operates over relatively large spatial domains with short temporal scales. Depending on their complexity, these models generally include representations for some or all of the following major physical processes:

  • Snow and snowmelt

  • Frozen soil

  • Infiltration

  • Surface runoff

  • Subsurface runoff (e.g., flows from unsaturated and/or saturated zones)

  • Evaporation and transpiration

  • Vegetation dynamics

  • Processes related to the energy budget (e.g., radiation, sensible heat flux, ground heat flux, etc.)

The above processes are interconnected and constrained by the available water and energy. Evapotranspiration links the energy and water aspects of a land surface model together. Soil moisture and surface temperature relate various different physical, hydrological, and biogeochemical processes to one another.


  • land surface model;
  • hydrologic model;
  • water budgets