A simple TOPMODEL-based runoff parameterization (SIMTOP) for use in global climate models

Guo Yue Niu, Zong Liang Yang, Robert E. Dickinson, Lindsey E. Gulden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

340 Scopus citations


This paper develops a simple TOPMODEL-based runoff parameterization (hereinafter SIMTOP) for use in global climate models (GCMs) that improves the runoff production and the partitioning of runoff between surface and subsurface components. SIMTOP simplifies the TOPMODEL runoff formulations in two ways: (1) SIMTOP represents the discrete distribution of the topographic index as an exponential function, not as a three-parameter gamma distribution; this change improves the parameterization of the fractional saturated area, especially in mountainous regions. (2) SIMTOP treats subsurface runoff as a product of an exponential function of the water table depth and a single coefficient, not as a product of several parameters that depend on topography and soil properties; this change facilitates applying TOPMODEL-based runoff schemes on global scale. SIMTOP is incorporated into the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Land Model version 2.0 (CLM 2.0). SIMTOP is validated at a watershed scale using data from the Sleepers River watershed in Vermont, USA. It is also validated on a global scale using the monthly runoff data from the University of New Hampshire Global Runoff Data Center (UNH-GRDC). SIMTOP performs favorably when compared to the baseline runoff formulation used in CLM2.0. Realistic simulations can be obtained using two distinct saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) profiles. These profiles include (1) exponential decay of Ksat with depth (as is typically done in TOPMODEL-based runoff schemes) and (2) the definition of Ksat using the soil texture profile data (as is typically done in climate models) and the concordant reduction of the gravitational drainage from the bottom of the soil column.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD21106
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 16 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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