Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

A simple hydrologically based model of land surface water and energy fluxes for general circulation models


  • Xu Liang,

  • Dennis P. Lettenmaier,

  • Eric F. Wood,

  • Stephen J. Burges


A generalization of the single soil layer variable infiltration capacity (VIC) land surface hydrological model previously implemented in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory general circulation model (GCM) is described. The new model is comprised of a two-layer characterization of the soil column, and uses an aerodynamic representation of the latent and sensible heat fluxes at the land surface. The infiltration algorithm for the upper layer is essentially the same as for the single layer VIC model, while the lower layer drainage formulation is of the form previously implemented in the Max-Planck-Institut GCM. The model partitions the area of interest (e.g., grid cell) into multiple land surface cover types; for each land cover type the fraction of roots in the upper and lower zone is specified. Evapotranspiration consists of three components: canopy evaporation, evaporation from bare soils, and transpiration, which is represented using a canopy and architectural resistance formulation. Once the latent heat flux has been computed, the surface energy balance is iterated to solve for the land surface temperature at each time step. The model was tested using long-term hydrologic and climatological data for Kings Creek, Kansas to estimate and validate the hydrological parameters, and surface flux data from three First International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project Field Experiment intensive field campaigns in the summer-fall of 1987 to validate the surface energy fluxes.