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Diagnosing Neglected Soil Moisture Source-Sink Processes via a Thermal Infrared-Based Two-Source Energy Balance Model

Hain, Christopher R.
Crow, Wade T.
Anderson, Martha C.
Yılmaz, Mustafa Tuğrul
In recent years, increased attention has been paid to the role of previously neglected water source (e.g., irrigation, direct groundwater extraction, and inland water bodies) and sink (e.g., tile drainage) processes on the surface energy balance. However, efforts to parameterize these processes within land surface models (LSMs) have generally been hampered by a lack of appropriate observational tools for directly observing the impact(s) of such processes on surface energy fluxes. One potential strategy for quantifying these impacts are direct comparisons between bottom-up surface energy flux predictions from a one-dimensional, free-drainage LSM with top-down energy flux estimates derived via thermal infrared remote sensing. The neglect of water source (and/or sink) processes in the bottom-up LSM can be potentially diagnosed through the presence of systematic energy flux biases relative to the top-down remote sensing retrieval. Based on this concept, the authors introduce the Atmosphere-Land Exchange Inverse (ALEXI) Source-Sink for Evapotranspiration (ASSET) index derived from comparisons between ALEXI remote sensing latent heat flux retrievals and comparable estimates obtained from the Noah LSM, version 3.2. Comparisons between ASSET index values and known spatial variations of groundwater depth, irrigation extent, inland water bodies, and tile drainage density within the contiguous United States verify the ability of ASSET to identify regions where neglected soil water source-sink processes may be impacting modeled surface energy fluxes. Consequently, ASSET appears to provide valuable information for ongoing efforts to improve the parameterization of new water source-sink processes within modern LSMs.