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Modeling the response of soil moisture to climate variability in the Mediterranean region

  • Mimeau, L.
  • Tramblay, Yves
  • Brocca, L.
  • Massari, C.
  • Camici, S.
  • Finaud-Guyot, P.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
Horizon Pleins textes
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Future climate scenarios for the Mediterranean region indicate a possible decrease in annual precipitation associated with an intensification of extreme rainfall events in the coming years. A major challenge in this region is to evaluate the impacts of changing precipitation patterns on extreme hydrological events such as droughts and floods. For this, it is important to understand the impact of climate change on soil moisture since it is a proxy for agricultural droughts and the antecedent soil moisture condition plays a key role on runoff generation. This study focuses on 10 sites, located in Southern France, with available soil moisture, temperature, and precipitation observations on a 10 year time period. Soil moisture is simulated at each site at the hourly time step using a model of soil water content. The sensitivity of the simulated soil moisture to different changes in precipitation and temperature is evaluated by simulating the soil moisture response to temperature and precipitation scenarios generated using a delta change method for temperature and a stochastic model (Neyman-Scott rectangular pulse model) for precipitation. Results show that soil moisture is more impacted by changes in precipitation intermittence than precipitation intensity and temperature. Overall, increased temperature and precipitation intensity associated with more intermittent precipitation leads to decreased soil moisture and an increase in the annual number of days with dry soil moisture conditions. In particular, a temperature increase of +4 °C combined with a decrease of annual rainfall between 10 and 20 %, corresponding to the current available climate scenarios for the Mediterranean, lead to a lengthening of the drought period from June to October 15 with in average +22 days of soil moisture drought per year.

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