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Extreme Compound and Seesaw Hydrometeorological Events in New Zealand: An Initial Assessment
  • Morgan James Bennet,
  • Daniel G Kingston,
  • Nicolas J. Cullen
Morgan James Bennet
University of Otago

Corresponding Author:morgan.bennet@postgrad.otago.ac.nz

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Daniel G Kingston
University of Otago
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Nicolas J. Cullen
School of Geography
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Attention is increasingly being turned towards an investigation of extreme hydrometeorological events within the context of land-atmosphere coupling in the wider hydrological cycle, particularly with respect to the identification of compound and seesaw events. To examine these events, accurate soil moisture data are essential. Here, soil moisture from three reanalysis products (ERA5-Land, BARRA and ERA5) are compared to station observations from 12 sites across New Zealand for an average timespan of 18 years. Soil moisture data from all three reanalyses were subsequently used to investigate land-atmosphere coupling with gridded (observational) precipitation and temperature. Finally, compound (co-occurrence of hot and dry) and seesaw (transitions from dry to wet) periods were identified and examined. No best performing reanalysis dataset for soil moisture is evident (min r = 0.78, max r = 0.80). All datasets successfully capture the seasonal and residual component of soil moisture, but not the observed soil moisture trends at each location. Strong coupling between soil moisture and temperature occurs across the predominately energy-limited regions of the lower North Island and entire South Island. Consequently, these regions reveal a high frequency of compound period occurrence and potential shifts in land states to a water limited phase during compound months. A series of seesaw events are also detected for the first time in New Zealand (terminating an average of 17% of droughts), with particularly high frequency of seesaw event occurrence detected in previously identified areas of atmospheric river (AR) activity, indicating the likely wider significance of ARs for drought termination.