There is an excellent new paper that illustrates effectively the role of soil moisture on weather and climate.
Quintanar, A., Mahmood, R., Loughrin, Lovanh, N. C., 2008: A coupled MM5-Noah land surface model-based assessment of sensitivity of planetary boundary layer variables to anomalous soil moisture conditions. Physical Geography, 29, 54-78, 10.2747/0272-36184.108.40.206 (subscription required)
The abstract reads
“The sensitivity of the near-surface weather variables and small-scale convection to soil moisture for Western Kentucky was investigated with the aide of the MM5 Penn State/NCAR mesoscale atmospheric model for three different synoptic conditions in June 2006. The model was initialized with FNL reanalysis from NCEP containing soil moisture data calculated with the Noah land surface model. Dry and wet experiments were performed in order to find the influence of soil moisture specification on boundary layer atmospheric variables. Dry experiments showed less available atmospheric moisture (between 2 and 6 g kg-1) at near-surface levels during all synoptic events consistent with slightly deeper boundary layers, higher lifting condensation levels and a larger Bowen ratio. As expected, precipitation rates were generally smaller than those of the control simulation. However, during a moderately strong synoptic event in early June, the dry experiments displayed larger precipitation rates compared to the control experiment (up to 5 mm in 3 hr) as the soil volumetric fraction was decreased from 0.05 to 0.15 (m3 m-3) with respect to the control simulation. Precipitation rates in wet experiments were also modulated by characteristics of synoptic conditions. In early June, precipitation rates slightly were larger than the control run (from 0.2 mm 3 h-1 to 1.4 mm 3 h-1) while in the other periods precipitation was reduced significantly. Both dry and wet anomaly experiments experienced reduced precipitation for different reasons. It was found, lifting condensation level, CAPE and low Bowen ratio were not sensitive markers of changes in soil moisture. Equivalent potential temperature was a better indicator of precipitation changes among all experiments. The controlling factor in these responses was the soil moisture content forcing vertical velocities. Thermodynamic conditions such as local stability played a less substantial role in controlling the precipitation processes. It was found that the response of planetary boundary layer variables under a variety of soil moisture conditions can be modified due to degree of synoptic forcing. Weak-to-moderate forcing favored convection while strong synoptic forcing tended to suppress it under dry soil moisture conditions. Wetter soils did not produce a response in horizontal wind fields as large as under the drier soils.”
The evidence continues to accumulate on the major role of land surface processes in weather and climate.