, Volume 98, Issue 3-4, pp 429-447

Soil-precipitation feedbacks during the South American Monsoon as simulated by a regional climate model


We summarize the recent progress in regional climate modeling in South America with the Rossby Centre regional atmospheric climate model (RCA3-E), with emphasis on soil moisture processes. A series of climatological integrations using a continental scale domain nested in reanalysis data were carried out for the initial and mature stages of the South American Monsoon System (SAMS) of 1993–92 and were analyzed on seasonal and monthly timescales. The role of including a spatially varying soil depth, which extends to 8 m in tropical forest, was evaluated against the standard constant soil depth of the model of about 2 m, through two five member ensemble simulations. The influence of the soil depth was relatively weak, with both beneficial and detrimental effects on the simulation of the seasonal mean rainfall. Secondly, two ensembles that differ in their initial state of soil moisture were prepared to study the influence of anomalously dry and wet soil moisture initial conditions on the intraseasonal development of the SAMS. In these simulations the austral winter soil moisture initial condition has a strong influence on wet season rainfall over feed back upon the monsoon, not only over the Amazon region but in subtropical South America as well. Finally, we calculated the soil moisture–precipitation coupling strength through comparing a ten member ensemble forced by the same space–time series of soil moisture fields with an ensemble with interactive soil moisture. Coupling strength is defined as the degree to which the prescribed boundary conditions affect some atmospheric quantity in a climate model, in this context a quantification of the fraction of atmospheric variability that can be ascribed to soil moisture anomalies. La Plata Basin appears as a region where the precipitation is partly controlled by soil moisture, especially in November and January. The continental convective monsoon regions and subtropical South America appears as a region with relatively high coupling strength during the mature phase of monsoon development.