Influence of atmospheric patterns on soil moisture dynamics in Europe

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Nov 10;846:157537. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157537. Epub 2022 Jul 22.


Soil moisture (SM) plays a key role in the water cycle, and its variability is intimately linked to coupled land-atmosphere processes. Having a good knowledge of soil-atmospheric interactions is thus essential to assess the impact of climate change on SM; however, many aspects of how water and energy exchanges occur in the soil-atmosphere continuum are still uncertain. In particular, it is known that atmospheric circulation patterns influence climate conditions over Europe but their impact on SM has only rarely been studied. This study provides insight into how atmospheric patterns influence soil moisture dynamics in Europe, where an increase in temperature and agricultural droughts are expected as an impact of climate change. To do so, we analysed the influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Arctic Oscillation (AO), and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on European SM, including lagged responses, for the period 1991-2020 at a monthly scale. Two methods have been used: a lagged correlation analysis and a more sophisticated causality approach using the PCMCI (PC method combined with the momentary conditional independence (MCI) test). SM series from two different databases were considered: the hydrological model LISFLOOD and the reanalysis dataset ERA5-Land. The results from the correlation analysis showed a significant, predominantly negative relationships of SM with NAO and AO over almost all of Europe and no significant relation with ENSO. With the causality analysis, similar patterns are obtained for NAO and AO; however, the PCMCI analysis revealed clear patterns of ENSO influencing SM with a delayed response of one-to-two months in central and northwest Europe. The results obtained in this work highlight that there are causal relations between the main modes of interannual climate oscillations and SM variations in Europe, underlining the importance of accounting for global atmospheric circulations to study current changes in regional soil water-related processes.

Keywords: Arctic oscillation; Causality; El Niño Southern Oscillation; Lagged response; North Atlantic Oscillation; Soil moisture.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere
  • Climate Change
  • El Nino-Southern Oscillation*
  • Soil*
  • Water


  • Soil
  • Water