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Characterizing GCM Land Surface Schemes to Understand Their Responses to Climate Change

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  • 1 Hadley Centre, The Met. Office, Bracknell, Berkshire, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Météo-France, Toulouse, France
  • | 3 Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • | 4 Reading University, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The impact of land surface representation on GCM simulations of climate change is analyzed using eight climate change experiments, carried out with four GCMs each utilizing two different land surface schemes (LSSs). In the regions studied (Amazonia, the Sahel, and southern Europe) the simulations differ markedly in terms of their predicted changes in evapotranspiration and soil moisture. These differences are only partly as a result of differences in the predicted changes in precipitation and available energy. A simple “bucket model” characterization of each LSS demonstrates that the different hydrological sensitivities are also strongly dependent on properties of the LSS, most notably the runoff, which occurs when evaporation is marginally soil moisture limited. This parameter, “Yc,” varies significantly among the LSSs, and influences both the soil moisture in the 1 × CO2 control climate, and the sensitivity of both evaporation and soil moisture to climate change. It is concluded that uncertainty in the predicted changes in surface hydrology is more dependent on such gross features of the runoff versus soil moisture curve than on the detailed treatment of evapotranspiration.

Corresponding author address: Dr. N. Gedney, Hadley Centre, The Met. Office, London Rd., Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 2SY, United Kingdom.

Email: ngedney@meto.gov.uk

Abstract

The impact of land surface representation on GCM simulations of climate change is analyzed using eight climate change experiments, carried out with four GCMs each utilizing two different land surface schemes (LSSs). In the regions studied (Amazonia, the Sahel, and southern Europe) the simulations differ markedly in terms of their predicted changes in evapotranspiration and soil moisture. These differences are only partly as a result of differences in the predicted changes in precipitation and available energy. A simple “bucket model” characterization of each LSS demonstrates that the different hydrological sensitivities are also strongly dependent on properties of the LSS, most notably the runoff, which occurs when evaporation is marginally soil moisture limited. This parameter, “Yc,” varies significantly among the LSSs, and influences both the soil moisture in the 1 × CO2 control climate, and the sensitivity of both evaporation and soil moisture to climate change. It is concluded that uncertainty in the predicted changes in surface hydrology is more dependent on such gross features of the runoff versus soil moisture curve than on the detailed treatment of evapotranspiration.

Corresponding author address: Dr. N. Gedney, Hadley Centre, The Met. Office, London Rd., Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 2SY, United Kingdom.

Email: ngedney@meto.gov.uk

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