Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2024-153
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2024-153
10 Jun 2024
 | 10 Jun 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Evaluation of hydroclimatic biases in the Community Earth System Model (CESM1) within the Mississippi River basin

Michelle O'Donnell, Kelsey Murphy, James Doss-Gollin, Sylvia Dee, and Samuel Munoz

Abstract. The Mississippi River is a critical waterway in the United States, and hydrologic variability along its course represents a perennial threat to trade, agriculture, industry, the economy, and communities. The Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1) complements observational records of river discharge by providing fully coupled output from a state-of-the-art earth system model that includes a river transport model. These simulations of past, historic, and projected river discharge have been widely used to assess the dynamics and causes of changes in the hydrology of the Mississippi River basin. Here, we compare observations and reanalysis datasets of key hydrologic variables to CESM1 output within the Mississippi River basin to evaluate model performance and bias. We show that the seasonality of simulated river discharge in CESM1 is shifted 2–3 months late relative to observations. This offset is attributed to seasonal biases in precipitation and runoff in the region. We also evaluate performance of several CMIP6 models over the Mississippi River basin, and show that runoff in other models — notably CESM2 — more closely simulates the seasonal trends in the reanalysis data. Our results have implications for model selection when assessing hydroclimate variability on the Mississippi River basin, and show that the seasonal timing of runoff can vary widely between models.  Our findings imply that continued improvements in the representation of land surface hydrology in earth system models may improve our ability to assess the causes and consequences of environmental change on terrestrial water resources and major river systems globally.

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Michelle O'Donnell, Kelsey Murphy, James Doss-Gollin, Sylvia Dee, and Samuel Munoz

Status: open (until 05 Aug 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
Michelle O'Donnell, Kelsey Murphy, James Doss-Gollin, Sylvia Dee, and Samuel Munoz

Model code and software

michelleodonnell/CESM1_validation: CESM1 validation for DOI Michelle O'Donnell https://zenodo.org/doi/10.5281/zenodo.11211747

Michelle O'Donnell, Kelsey Murphy, James Doss-Gollin, Sylvia Dee, and Samuel Munoz

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Short summary
We investigate the skill of CESM1 in simulating hydrologic processes over the Mississippi River basin. Model simulated discharge is seasonally delayed relative to observations: model biases are diagnosed using hydroclimate variables from reanalysis data and attributed primarily to precipitation and runoff related processes. We also show that the seasonality of simulated runoff in several CMIP6 models is improved relative to CESM1.