ERA-5 and ERA-Interim driven ISBA land surface model simulations: which one performs better?

Albergel C, Dutra E, Munier S, Calvet J-C, Munoz-Sabater J, Rosnay P de, Balsamo G
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 3515-3532, 2018,

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The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) recently released the first 7-year segment of its latest atmospheric reanalysis: ERA-5 over the period 2010–2016. ERA-5 has important changes relative to the former ERA-Interim atmospheric reanalysis including higher spatial and temporal resolutions as well as a more recent model and data assimilation system. ERA-5 is foreseen to replace ERA-Interim reanalysis and one of the main goals of this study is to assess whether ERA-5 can enhance the simulation performances with respect to ERA-Interim when it is used to force a land surface model (LSM). To that end, both ERA-5 and ERA-Interim are used to force the ISBA (Interactions between Soil, Biosphere, and Atmosphere) LSM fully coupled with the Total Runoff Integrating Pathways (TRIP) scheme adapted for the CNRM (Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques) continental hydrological system within the SURFEX (SURFace Externalisée) modelling platform of Météo-France. Simulations cover the 2010–2016 period at half a degree spatial resolution. The ERA-5 impact on ISBA LSM relative to ERA-Interim is evaluated using remote sensing and in situ observations covering a substantial part of the land surface storage and fluxes over the continental US domain. The remote sensing observations include (i) satellite-driven model estimates of land evapotranspiration, (ii) upscaled ground-based observations of gross primary production, (iii) satellite-derived estimates of surface soil moisture and (iv) satellite-derived estimates of leaf area index (LAI). The in situ observations cover (i) soil moisture, (ii) turbulent heat fluxes, (iii) river discharges and (iv) snow depth. ERA-5 leads to a consistent improvement over ERA-Interim as verified by the use of these eight independent observations of different land status and of the model simulations forced by ERA-5 when compared with ERA-Interim. This is particularly evident for the land surface variables linked to the terrestrial hydrological cycle, while variables linked to vegetation are less impacted. Results also indicate that while precipitation provides, to a large extent, improvements in surface fields (e.g. large improvement in the representation of river discharge and snow depth), the other atmospheric variables play an important role, contributing to the overall improvements. These results highlight the importance of enhanced meteorological forcing quality provided by the new ERA-5 reanalysis, which will pave the way for a new generation of land-surface developments and applications.