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Standardized Soil Moisture and Drought

Authors: Michael Palecki*, NOAA/ National Centers for Environmental Information - Asheville, NC
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology
Keywords: climate, hydroclimatology, drought
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2009 the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) has collected soil moisture observations at its station locations in the conterminous United States. While volumetric soil moisture is an important physical metric for use in models and satellite validation, many purposes are better served by using measures relative to climatology. The USCRN Program is releasing a version of its soil moisture data standardized by subtracting the median for the time of year and day and dividing by the interquartile range. In this presentation, the utility of these data will be demonstrated by using them to create useful drought indices that will be compared to drought events as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought events are defined at a station location as a period reaching at least moderate drought (D1) status, surrounded by 6 weeks at least of non-drought status before and after. It is shown that soil moisture based climate indices are helpful in characterizing drought events, especially at their onset. However, no single index explains drought behavior at every time scale, and surface soil moisture conditions can oscillate considerably during long duration droughts.

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