Many existing general circulation models (GCMs) use so-called 'bucket algorithms' to represent land-surface hydrology. Wood et al. (1992) presented a generalization of the simple bucket representation, based on their variable infiltration capacity (VIC) model. The VIC model, in essence, assumes a statistical distribution of bucket sizes within the grid square. In this way, it provides a simple, computationally efficient and yet physically realistic model of land-surface hydrology. A preliminary attempt is made here, using this simple model, to evaluate the effects of the spatial variability of rainfall intensities and the resulting soil moisture within a hypothetical GCM grid square. Rainfall is assumed to be patchy, with only a fraction of the grid square being wetted by rainfall at any given time. Within the wetted area, however, rainfall is allowed to vary randomly in space. Evaporation during interstorm periods is estimated from the rest of the grid square by a simple non-linear function of the available soil moisture. The soil moisture is also assumed to be patchy and spatially variable due to the antecedent rainfall that caused it. A number of simplifying assumptions have been made in the model about the redistribution of soil moisture at the end of storm and interstorm periods, and the effects of a vegetation canopy have been ignored. The model is applied, under a variety of conditions, to estimate the biases in the modelled water balance fluxes if the assumed spatial heterogeneity is neglected. The model is also used to simulate the long-term water balance dynamics under assumed hypothetical storm and inter-storm climatic inputs, to see how the steady-state hydrological regime is affected by spatial variability. These simulations are relevant to current efforts towards developing simple parameterizations of land-surface hydrology that explicitly incorporate subgrid heterogeneity.
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|Published - 1995