Assimilation of surface albedo and vegetation states from satellite observations and their impact on numerical weather prediction

Boussetta S, Balsamo G, Dutra E, Beljaars A, Albergel C
Remote Sensing of Environment 163 (2015) 111–126,

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1. The vegetation state can have a prominent influence on the global energy, water and carbon cycles. This has been particularly evident during extreme conditions in recent years (e.g. Europe 2003 and Russia 2010 heat waves, Horn of Africa 2010 drought, and Australia 2010 drought recovery). Weather parameters are sensitive to the vegetation state and particularly to albedo and Leaf Area Index (LAI) that controls the partitioning of the surface energy fluxes into latent and sensible fluxes, and the development of planetary boundary conditions and clouds. 2. An optimal interpolation analysis of a satellite-based surface albedo and LAI is performed through the combination of satellite observations and derived climatologies, depending on their associated errors. The final analysis products have smoother temporal evolution than the direct observations, which makes them more appropriate for environmental and numerical weather prediction. 3. The impact of assimilating these near-real-time (NRT) products within the land surface scheme of the European Centre of Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is evaluated for anomalous years. It is shown that: (i) the assimilation of these products enables detecting/monitoring extreme climate conditions where the LAI anomaly could reach more than 50% and in wet years albedo anomaly could reach 10% , (ii) extreme NRT LAI anomalies have a strong impact on the surface fluxes, while for the albedo, which has a smaller inter-annual variability, the impact on surface fluxes is small, (iii) neutral to slightly better agreement with in-situ surface soil moisture observations and surface energy and CO2 fluxes from eddy-covariance towers is obtained, and (iv) in forecast using a land–atmosphere coupled system, the assimilation of NRT LAI reduces the near-surface air temperature and humidity errors both in wet and dry cases, while NRT albedo has a small impact, mainly in wet cases (when albedo anomalies are more noticeable).