The role of land surface processes on the mesoscale simulation of the July 26, 2005 heavy rain event over Mumbai, India

Hsin I. Chang, Anil Kumar, Dev Niyogi, U. C. Mohanty, Fei Chen, Jimy Dudhia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


A record-breaking heavy rain event occurred over Mumbai, India on July 26th, 2005 with 24-h rainfall exceeding 944 mm. Operational weather forecast models failed to predict the intensity and amount of heavy rainfall. The objective of this study was to test the impact of the three different land surface models when coupled to the Weather Research Forecasting (WRF), and also to investigate the ability of the WRF model to simulate the Mumbai heavy rain event. Numerical experiments were designed using the WRF model, with three nested domains (30, 10, and 3.3 km grid spacing). Results confirmed that the simulated rainfall is sensitive to the grid spacing (with finer grids leading to higher rainfall). Results also suggest that simulated precipitation amounts are sensitive to the choice of cumulus parameterization (with Grell-Devenyi cumulus scheme performing relatively best). To reduce the confounding impact of cumulus parameterization in studying the impacts of land surface models, we evaluated results for the 3.3 km grid spacing domain with explicit convection. Simulations were performed from 12Z, July 25th to 00Z, July 27th with identical boundary conditions and model configurations for three different land surface models (the Slab, the Noah, and a modified version with photosynthesis module-the Noah-GEM). The model results were compared with observed rainfall, surface temperature, and operational soundings over three locations: Mumbai, Bangalore and Bhopal. Model results showed that: (i) The simulated rainfall was sensitive to the chosen land surface model. The rainfall spatial distributions, as well as their temporal characteristics, were different for each of the three WRF runs with different LSMs. (ii) In contrast to the findings over mid-latitudes, the relatively simpler Slab model had a relatively better performance than the modestly complex Noah and Noah-GEM LSMs. For example, the highest observed rainfall over Mumbai was 944 mm and the simulated amounts for Slab, Noah and Noah-GEM runs were 781 mm, 733 mm and 678 mm, respectively. (iii) Overall, the Slab model simulated a relatively cooler surface and a shallower boundary layer. Most significantly, the Slab model resulted in a convergence hotspot at both the 850 mb and 500 mb levels, which lead to high moisture accumulation and higher rainfall activity over Mumbai. Noah and Noah-GEM, on the other hand, resulted in a divergence zone over Mumbai and the Western Ghats leading to more widespread runs but relatively lower rainfall amounts over Mumbai. Additional synthetic experiments were performed to test the sensitivity of land use land cover, the model start time and run duration. Results indicated that the WRF model was able to reproduce several features of the Mumbai rain event, and that the land surface representations would have substantial impact on the heavy rain simulations. Future studies with more up to date land use land cover data, and regional calibration of the land surface model parameters, show the potential for improving the performance of the Noah-WRF over the Indian monsoon region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-103
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Heavy rain
  • Indian summer monsoon
  • Land surface processes
  • Mesoscale convection
  • Mumbai
  • Weather research and forecast model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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