Climate Dynamics

, Volume 36, Issue 9, pp 1919-1939

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Impact of soil moisture–atmosphere coupling on European climate extremes and trends in a regional climate model

  • E. B. JaegerAffiliated withInstitute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Universitätstrasse Email author 
  • , S. I. SeneviratneAffiliated withInstitute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Universitätstrasse


Processes acting at the interface between the land surface and the atmosphere have a strong impact on the European summer climate, particularly during extreme years. These processes are to a large extent associated with soil moisture (SM). This study investigates the role of soil moisture–atmosphere coupling for the European summer climate over the period 1959–2006 using simulations with a regional climate model. The focus of this study is set on temperature and precipitation extremes and trends. The analysis is based on simulations performed with the regional climate model CLM, driven with ECMWF reanalysis and operational analysis data. The set of experiments consists of a control simulation (CTL) with interactive SM, and sensitivity experiments with prescribed SM: a dry and a wet run to determine the impact of extreme values of SM, as well as experiments with lowpass-filtered SM from CTL to quantify the impact of the temporal variability of SM on different time scales. Soil moisture–climate interactions are found to have significant effects on temperature extremes in the experiments, and impacts on precipitation extremes are also identified. Case studies of selected major summer heat waves reveal that the intraseasonal and interannual variability of SM account for 5–30% and 10–40% of the simulated heat wave anomaly, respectively. For extreme precipitation events on the other hand, only the wet-day frequency is impacted in the experiments with prescribed soil moisture. Simulated trends for the past decades, which appear consistent with projected changes for the 21st century, are identified to be at least partly linked to SM-atmosphere feedbacks.


Climate extremes Soil moisture Land atmosphere interactions Regional climate modeling Climate trends