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Concerning the Measurement and Magnitude of Heat, Water Vapor, and Carbon Dioxide Exchange from a Semiarid Grassland

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  • 1 Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

Grassland environments constitute approximately 40% of the earth’s vegetated surface, and they play a key role in a number of processes linking the land surface with the atmosphere. To investigate these linkages, a variety of techniques, including field and modeling studies, are required. Using data collected at the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) in northeastern Colorado from 25 March to 10 November 2004, this study compares two common ways of measuring turbulent fluxes of latent heat, sensible heat, and carbon dioxide in the field: the eddy covariance (EC) and Bowen ratio energy balance (BREB) methods. The turbulent fluxes measured by each of these methods were compared in terms of magnitude and seasonal behavior and were combined to calculate eddy diffusivities and examine turbulent transport. Relative to the EC method, the BREB method tended to overestimate the magnitude of the sensible heat, latent heat, and carbon dioxide fluxes. As a result, substantial differences in both the diurnal pattern and long-term magnitudes of the water and carbon budgets were apparent depending on which method was used. These differences arise from (i) the forced closure of the surface energy balance and (ii) the assumption of similarity between the eddy diffusivities required by the BREB method. An empirical method was developed that allows the BREB and EC datasets to be reconciled; this method was tested successfully using data collected at the CPER site during 2005. Ultimately, however, the BREB and EC methods show important differences that must be recognized and taken into account when analyzing issues related to the energy, water, or carbon cycles.

* Current affiliation: Department of Agronomy, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Alfieri, Department of Agronomy, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Purdue University, 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907. Email: jalfieri@purdue.edu

Abstract

Grassland environments constitute approximately 40% of the earth’s vegetated surface, and they play a key role in a number of processes linking the land surface with the atmosphere. To investigate these linkages, a variety of techniques, including field and modeling studies, are required. Using data collected at the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) in northeastern Colorado from 25 March to 10 November 2004, this study compares two common ways of measuring turbulent fluxes of latent heat, sensible heat, and carbon dioxide in the field: the eddy covariance (EC) and Bowen ratio energy balance (BREB) methods. The turbulent fluxes measured by each of these methods were compared in terms of magnitude and seasonal behavior and were combined to calculate eddy diffusivities and examine turbulent transport. Relative to the EC method, the BREB method tended to overestimate the magnitude of the sensible heat, latent heat, and carbon dioxide fluxes. As a result, substantial differences in both the diurnal pattern and long-term magnitudes of the water and carbon budgets were apparent depending on which method was used. These differences arise from (i) the forced closure of the surface energy balance and (ii) the assumption of similarity between the eddy diffusivities required by the BREB method. An empirical method was developed that allows the BREB and EC datasets to be reconciled; this method was tested successfully using data collected at the CPER site during 2005. Ultimately, however, the BREB and EC methods show important differences that must be recognized and taken into account when analyzing issues related to the energy, water, or carbon cycles.

* Current affiliation: Department of Agronomy, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Alfieri, Department of Agronomy, Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Purdue University, 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907. Email: jalfieri@purdue.edu

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