Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 1–2, pp 123–141 | Cite as

Impact of soil map specifications for European climate simulations

  • Benoit P. GuillodEmail author
  • Edouard L. Davin
  • Christine Kündig
  • Gerhard Smiatek
  • Sonia I. Seneviratne


Soil physical characteristics can influence terrestrial hydrology and the energy balance and may thus affect land–atmosphere exchanges. However, only few studies have investigated the importance of soil textures for climate. In this study, we examine the impact of soil texture specification in a regional climate model. We perform climate simulations over Europe using soil maps derived from two different sources: the soil map of the world from the Food and Agricultural Organization and the European Soil Database from the European Commission Joint Research Center. These simulations highlight the importance of the specified soil texture in summer, with differences of up to 2 °C in mean 2-m temperature and 20 % in precipitation resulting from changes in the partitioning of energy at the land surface into sensible and latent heat flux. Furthermore, we perform additional simulations where individual soil parameters are perturbed in order to understand their role for summer climate. These simulations highlight the importance of the vertical profile of soil moisture for evapotranspiration. Parameters affecting the latter are hydraulic diffusivity parameters, field capacity and plant wilting point. Our study highlights the importance of soil properties for climate simulations. Given the uncertainty associated with the geographical distribution of soil texture and the resulting differences between maps from different sources, efforts to improve existing databases are needed. In addition, climate models would benefit from tackling unresolved issues in land-surface modeling related to the high spatial variability in soil parameters, both horizontally and vertically, and to limitations of the concept of soil textural class.


Soil maps Regional climate modelling COSMO-CLM Land surface modelling Land–atmosphere interactions Soil hydrology 



We thank Alessandro Dosio (JRC) for information about the European Soil Database. The European Soil Database (ESDB) has been developed by the Land Management & Natural Hazards Unit of the European Commission Joint Research Centre, in the context of the development of European Environmental Data Centres by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency. We acknowledge partial funding from the CCES Maiolica project and the EU-FP7 EMBRACE project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benoit P. Guillod
    • 1
    Email author
  • Edouard L. Davin
    • 1
  • Christine Kündig
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gerhard Smiatek
    • 3
  • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Atmospheric and Climate ScienceETH ZurichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.EAWAG, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyDübendorfSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute for Meteorology and Climate ResearchKarlsruhe Institute of TechnologyGarmisch-PartenkirschenGermany

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