Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
Research article
19 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 19 Feb 2014

Assimilation of surface soil moisture into a multilayer soil model: design and evaluation at local scale

M. Parrens, J.-F. Mahfouf, A. L. Barbu, and J.-C. Calvet

Abstract. Land surface models (LSM) have improved considerably in the last two decades. In this study, the Interactions between Surface, Biosphere, and Atmosphere (ISBA) LSM soil diffusion scheme is used (with 11 soil layers represented). A simplified extended Kalman filter (SEKF) allows ground observations of surface soil moisture (SSM) to be assimilated in the multilayer LSM in order to constrain deep soil moisture. In parallel, the same simulations are performed using the ISBA LSM with 2 soil layers (a thin surface layer and a bulk reservoir). Simulations are performed over a 3 yr period (2003–2005) for a bare soil field in southwestern France, at the SMOSREX (Surface Monitoring Of the Soil Reservoir Experiment) site. Analyzed soil moisture values correlate better with soil moisture observations when the ISBA LSM soil diffusion scheme is used. The Kalman gain is greater from the surface to 45 cm than below this limit. For dry periods, corrections introduced by the assimilation scheme mainly affect the first 15 cm of soil whereas weaker corrections impact the total soil column for wet periods. Such seasonal corrections cannot be described by the two-layer ISBA LSM. Sensitivity studies performed with the multilayer LSM show improved results when SSM (0–6 cm) is assimilated into the second layer (1–5 cm) than into the first layer (0–1 cm). The introduction of vertical correlations in the background error covariance matrix is also encouraging. Using a yearly cumulative distribution function (CDF)-matching scheme for bias correction instead of matching over the three years permits the seasonal variability of the soil moisture content to be better transcribed. An assimilation experiment has also been performed by forcing ISBA-DF (diffusion scheme) with a local forcing, setting precipitation to zero. This experiment shows the benefit of the SSM assimilation for correcting inaccurate atmospheric forcing.