Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Environ. Res. Lett. 18 (2023) 114011


Open access.


Observations of soil moisture (SM) during excess and deficit monsoon seasons between 2000 to 2021 present a unique opportunity to understand the soil water dynamics (SWD) over core monsoon zone (CMZ) of India. This study aims to analyse SWD by investigating the SM variability, SM memory (SMM), and the coupling between surface and subsurface SM levels. Particularly intriguing are instances of concurrent monsoonal extremes, which give rise to complex SWD patterns. Usually, it is noted that a depleted convective activity and persistence of higher temperatures during the pre-monsoon season leads to lower SM, while monsoon rains and post-monsoon showers support the prevalence of higher SM conditions. The long persistent dry spells during deficit monsoon years enhances the Bowen ratio (BR) due to the high sensible heat fluxes. On the other hand, the availability of large latent heat flux during excess monsoon and post-monsoon seasons tend to decrease the BR. This enhancement or reduction in BR is due to evapotranspiration (ET), which influences the SWD by modulating the surface—subsurface SM coupling. The surface and subsurface SM coupling analysis for CMZ exhibits significant distinction in the evolution of wet and dry extremes. SM variations and persistence time scale is used as an indicator of SMM, and analysed for both surface and subsurface SM observation levels. Evidently, subsurface SM exhibits remarkably prolonged memory timescales, approximately twice that of surface SM. Furthermore, we dissect SWD linked to wet and dry extremes by analysing annual soil water balance at a local site in Pune, India. Our findings reveal that ET and deep drainage on annual scale are modulated largely by number of break events during the monsoon season. In essence, our study underscores the significance of surface–subsurface SM observations in unravelling the intricate tapestry of SWD.