Humans have profoundly influenced their environment. It has been estimated that nearly one-third of the global land cover has been modified while approximately 40% of the photosynthesis has been appropriated. As the interface between the subsurface and the atmosphere is altered, it is imperative that we understand the influence this alteration has in terms of changing regional and global climates. Land surface heterogeneity is sometimes a principal modulator of local and regional climates and, as such, there are potential aggregation and teleconnection effects ranging in scales from soil pores to the general atmospheric circulation when the land surface is altered across a range of scales. The human fingerprint on land surface processes is critical and must also be accounted for in the discourse on land-atmosphere coupling as it pertains to climate and global change as well as local processes such as evapotranspiration and streamflow. It is at this pivotal interface where hydrologists, atmospheric scientists and ecologists must understand how their disciplines interact and influence each other.
Fluxes across the land-surface directly influence predictions of ecological processes, atmospheric dynamics, and terrestrial hydrology. However, many simplifications are made in numerical models when considering terrestrial hydrology from the view point of the atmosphere and visa-versa. While this may be a necessity in the current generation of operational models used for forecasting, it can create obstacles to the advancement of process understanding. These simplifications can limit the numerical prediction capabilities on how water partitions itself throughout all phases of the water cycle. The feedbacks between terrestrial and atmospheric water dynamics are not well understood or represented by the current generation of operational land-surface and atmospheric models. This can lead to erroneous spatial patterns and anomalous temporal persistence in land-atmosphere exchanges and atmospheric water cycle predictions. Cross-disciplinary efforts are needed not only to identify but also to quantify feedbacks between terrestrial and atmospheric water at appropriate spatiotemporal scales. This is especially true as today’s young scientists set their sights on improving process understanding and prediction skill from both research and operational models used to describe such linked systems.
In recognition of these challenges, a junior faculty and early career scientist forum was recently held at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado with the intent of identifying and characterizing feedback interactions, and their attendant spatial and temporal scales, important for coupling terrestrial and atmospheric water dynamics. The primary focus of this forum is on improved process understanding, rather than operational products, as the possibility of incorporating more realistic physics into operational models is computationally prohibitive. We approached the subject of improved predictability through better process understanding by focusing on the following three framework questions described and discussed below.
2008. Vol. 89, no 9, 1275-1279 p.