Influence of lateral subsurface flow and connectivity on soil water storage in land surface modeling Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Lateral surface/subsurface flow and their connectivity play a significant role in redistributing soil water, which has a direct effect on biological, chemical, and geomorphological processes in the root zone (~1 m). However, most of the land surface models neglect the horizontal exchanges of water at the grid or subgrid scales, focusing only on the vertical exchanges of water as one-dimensional process. To develop better hydrologic understanding and modeling capability in complex landscapes, in this study we added connectivity-based lateral subsurface flow algorithms in the Community Land Model. To demonstrate the impact of lateral flow and connectivity on soil water storage we designed three cases including the following: (1) with complex surface topography only, (2) with complex surface topography in upper soil layers and soil hydraulic properties with uniform anisotropy. and (3) with complex surface topography and soil hydraulic properties with spatially varying anisotropy. The connectivity was considered as an indicator for the variation of anisotropy in the case 3, which was created by wetness conditions or geophysical controls (e.g., soil type, normalized difference vegetation index, and topographic index). These cases were tested in two study sites (ER 5 field and ER-sub watershed in Oklahoma) comparing to the field (gravimetric and remote sensing) soil moisture observations. Through the analysis of spatial patterns and temporal dynamics of soil moisture predictions from the study cases, surface topography was found to be a crucial control in demonstrating the variation of near surface soil moisture, but not significantly affected the subsurface flow in deeper soil layers. In addition, we observed the best performance in case 3 representing that the lateral connectivity can contribute effectively to quantify the anisotropy and redistributing soil water in the root zone. Hence, the approach with connectivity-based lateral subsurface flow was able to better characterize the spatially distributed patterns of subsurface flow and improve the simulation of the hydrologic cycle.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Kim, J., & Mohanty, B. P.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Kim, Jonggun||Mohanty, Binayak P

publication date

  • January 2016