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Bedrock controls on water and energy partitioning across the western contiguous United States
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  • Robert Ehlert,
  • W. Jesse Hahm,
  • David N Dralle,
  • Daniella Rempe,
  • Diana M. Allen
Robert Ehlert
Simon Fraser University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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W. Jesse Hahm
Simon Fraser University
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David N Dralle
Pacific Southwest Research Station, United States Forest Service
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Daniella Rempe
University of Texas at Austinn
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Diana M. Allen
Simon Fraser University
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Across diverse biomes and climate types, plants use water stored in bedrock to sustain transpiration. Bedrock water storage ($S_{bedrock}$, mm), in addition to soil moisture, thus plays an important role in water cycling and should be accounted for in the context of surface energy balances and streamflow generation. Yet, the extent to which bedrock water storage impacts hydrologic partitioning and influences latent heat fluxes has yet to be quantified at large scales. This is particularly important in Mediterranean climates, where the majority of precipitation is offset from energy delivery and plants must rely on water retained from the wet season to support summer growth. Here we present a simple water balance approach and random forest model to quantify the role of $S_{bedrock}$ on controlling hydrologic partitioning and land surface energy budgets. Specifically, we track evapotranspiration in excess of precipitation and mapped soil water storage capacity ($S_{soil}$, mm) across the western US in the context of Budyko’s water partitioning framework. Our findings indicate that $S_{bedrock}$ is necessary to sustain plant growth in forests in the Sierra Nevada — some of the most productive forests on Earth — as early as April every year, which is counter to the current conventional thought that bedrock is exclusively used late in the dry season under extremely dry conditions. We show that the average latent heat flux used in evapotranspiration of $S_{bedrock}$ can exceed 100 $W/m^{2}$ during the dry season and the proportion of water that returns to the atmosphere would decrease dramatically without access to $S_{bedrock}$.
22 Nov 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
22 Nov 2023Published in ESS Open Archive