EGU23-6991, updated on 25 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Insights into the hydrology of the Congo peatlands through land surface modeling and data assimilation

Sebastian Apers1, Gabriëlle De Lannoy1, Alexander R. Cobb2, Greta C. Dargie3, Rolf H. Reichle4, and Michel Bechtold1
Sebastian Apers et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, Heverlee, Belgium
  • 2Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, Singapore, Singapore
  • 3School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 4Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

The 16.8 million ha of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale wetland complex in the Congo Basin is one of the largest peatland regions on Earth but still highly understudied. Understanding the hydrological functioning of these peatlands and the effects of external disturbances thereon remains a major challenge. Recent research suggested fundamental hydrological differences between the Congo peatlands and the well-studied Southeast Asian peatlands. The Congo peatlands have a doming gradient that is up to ten times smaller, and they are influenced by river hydrology to some extent.

In this study, we explore the Congo peatland hydrology through land surface modeling and data assimilation. We build upon our recently developed tropical PEATCLSM module (Apers et al., 2022) that was parameterized based on data from Southeast Asian peatlands due to the lack of field data from other tropical peatland regions. In a first step, we derive Congo-specific peat hydraulic and discharge function parameters from a scalar parametrization of water level dynamics in the Congo peatlands, using observed water level data at two locations. These Congo-specific parameters differ considerably from the original literature-based parameters from Southeast Asian peatlands. In a second step, we apply our original and Congo-specific parameters in an assimilation scheme for L-band brightness temperature (Tb) data from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission. The data assimilation results are used in two ways. First, the effect of these parameters on the simulated peatland hydrology and the observation-minus-forecast Tb residuals is evaluated. It is hypothesized that the new parameters reduce the previously reported modeling errors over the Congo peatlands and reduce the residuals in Tb as well. Second, we analyze the data assimilation diagnostics to learn about other model improvement possibilities. In preliminary results, we found long periods of temporally autocorrelated total water storage increments (difference of pre- and post-update) that coincided with anomalies in river stages measured upstream of the peatlands. Since PEATLCSM neglects possible river influence, this concurrence suggests that the typically used grid-based approach of land surface models should be combined with a river routing scheme over the Congo peatlands.

Apers, S., De Lannoy, G. J. M., Baird, A. J., Cobb, A. R., Dargie, G. C., del Aguila Pasquel, J., ... & Bechtold, M. (2022). Tropical peatland hydrology simulated with a global land surface model. Journal of advances in modeling earth systems, 14(3), e2021MS002784.

How to cite: Apers, S., De Lannoy, G., Cobb, A. R., Dargie, G. C., Reichle, R. H., and Bechtold, M.: Insights into the hydrology of the Congo peatlands through land surface modeling and data assimilation, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6991,, 2023.