We develop and implement a novel numerical water tracer model within the Noah LSM with multiparameterization options (WT-Noah-MP) that is specifically designed to track individual hydrometeorological events. This approach provides a more complete representation of the physical processes beyond the standard land surface model output. Unlike isotope-enabled LSMs, WT-Noah-MP does not simulate the concentration of oxygen or hydrogen isotopes, or require isotope information to drive it. WT-Noah-MP provides stores, fluxes, and transit time estimates of tagged water in the surface-subsurface system. The new tracer tool can account for the horizontal and vertical heterogeneity of tracer transport in the subsurface by allowing partial mixing in each soil layer. We compared model-estimated transit times at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Watershed in Oregon with those derived from isotope observations. Our results show that including partial mixing in the soil results in a more realistic transit time distribution than the basic well-mixed assumption. We then used WT-Noah-MP to investigate the regional response to an extreme precipitation event in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The model differentiated the flood response due to direct precipitation from indirect thermal effects and showed that a large portion of this event water was retained in the soil after 6 months. The water tracer addition in Noah-MP can help us quantify the long-term memory in the hydrologic system that can impact seasonal hydroclimate variability through evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-967
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Flood events
  • Hydrometeorology
  • Land surface model
  • Regional effects
  • Soil moisture
  • Tracers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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