Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Research article
21 Dec 2011
Research article |  | 21 Dec 2011

Parameterization of a bucket model for soil-vegetation-atmosphere modeling under seasonal climatic regimes

N. Romano, M. Palladino, and G. B. Chirico

Abstract. We investigate the potential impact of accounting for seasonal variations in the climatic forcing and using different methods to parameterize the soil water content at field capacity on the water balance components computed by a bucket model (BM). The single-layer BM of Guswa et al. (2002) is employed, whereas the Richards equation (RE) based Soil Water Atmosphere Plant (SWAP) model is used as a benchmark model. The results are analyzed for two differently-textured soils and for some synthetic runs under real-like seasonal weather conditions, using stochastically-generated daily rainfall data for a period of 100 years. Since transient soil-moisture dynamics and climatic seasonality play a key role in certain zones of the World, such as in Mediterranean land areas, a specific feature of this study is to test the prediction capability of the bucket model under a condition where seasonal variations in rainfall are not in phase with the variations in plant transpiration. Reference is made to a hydrologic year in which we have a rainy period (starting 1 November and lasting 151 days) where vegetation is basically assumed in a dormant stage, followed by a drier and rainless period with a vegetation regrowth phase. Better agreement between BM and RE-SWAP intercomparison results are obtained when BM is parameterized by a field capacity value determined through the drainage method proposed by Romano and Santini (2002). Depending on the vegetation regrowth or dormant seasons, rainfall variability within a season results in transpiration regimes and soil moisture fluctuations with distinctive features. During the vegetation regrowth season, transpiration exerts a key control on soil water budget with respect to rainfall. During the dormant season of vegetation, the precipitation regime becomes an important climate forcing. Simulations also highlight the occurrence of bimodality in the probability distribution of soil moisture during the season when plants are dormant, reflecting that soil, it being of coarser or finer texture, can be preferentially in either wetter or drier states over this period.