New publication: Reconciling spatial and temporal soil moisture effects on afternoon rainfall

Benoit P. Guillod, Boris Orlowsky, Diego G. Miralles, Adriaan J. Teuling & Sonia I. Seneviratne (2015) Reconciling spatial and temporal soil moisture effects on afternoon rainfall Nature Communications doi:10.1038/ncomms7443

Abstract

Soil moisture impacts on precipitation have been strongly debated. Recent observational evidence of afternoon rain falling preferentially over land parcels that are drier than the surrounding areas (negative spatial effect), contrasts with previous reports of a predominant positive temporal effect. However, whether spatial effects relating to soil moisture heterogeneity translate into similar temporal effects remains unknown. Here we show that afternoon precipitation events tend to occur during wet and heterogeneous soil moisture conditions, while being located over comparatively drier patches. Using remote-sensing data and a common analysis framework, spatial and temporal correlations with opposite signs are shown to coexist within the same region and data set. Positive temporal coupling might enhance precipitation persistence, while negative spatial coupling tends to regionally homogenize land surface conditions. Although the apparent positive temporal coupling does not necessarily imply a causal relationship, these results reconcile the notions of moisture recycling with local, spatially negative feedbacks.