Impacts of Noah model physics on catchment-scale runoff simulations

Donghai Zheng, R. van der Velde, Zhongbo Su, Jun Wen, Xin Wang, Martijn J. Booij, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra, Shihua Lv, Michael B. Ek

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Noah model physics options validated for the source region of the Yellow River (SRYR) are applied to investigate their ability in reproducing runoff at the catchment scale. Three sets of augmentations are implemented affecting descriptions of (i) turbulent and soil heat transport (Noah-H), (ii) soil water flow (Noah-W), and (iii) frozen ground processes (Noah-F). Five numerical experiments are designed with the three augmented versions, a control run with default model physics and a run with all augmentations (Noah-A). Each experiment is set up with vegetation and soil parameters from Weather Research and Forecasting data set, soil organic matter content from China Soil Database, 0.1° atmospheric forcing data from Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (Chinese Academy of Sciences), and initial equilibrium model states achieved using a single-year recurrent spin-up. In situ heat flux, soil temperature (Ts), and soil moisture (θ) profile measurements are available for point-scale assessment, whereas monthly streamflow is utilized for the catchment-scale evaluation. The comparison with point measurements shows that the augmentations invoked with Noah-H resolve issues with the heat flux and Ts simulation and Noah-W mitigates deficiencies in the θ simulation, while Noah-A yields improvements for both simulated surface energy and water budgets. In contrast, Noah-F has a minor effect. Also, at catchment scale, the best model performance is found for Noah-A leading to a base flow-dominated runoff regime, whereby the surface runoff contribution remains significant. This study highlights the need for a complete description of vertical heat and water exchanges to correctly simulate the runoff in the seasonally frozen and high-altitude SRYR at the catchment scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-832
JournalJournal of geophysical research: Atmospheres
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • METIS-315741
  • IR-100700

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