Soil organic matter (SOM) is enriched on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, but its effects on the hydrothermal state of the coupled land–atmosphere system remain unclear. This study comprehensively investigates these effects during summer from multiple perspectives based on regional climate modeling, land surface modeling, and observations. Using a regional climate model, we show that accounting for SOM effects lowers cold and wet biases in simulations of this region. SOM increases 2-m air temperature, decreases 2-m specific/relative humidity, and reduces precipitation in coupled simulations. Inclusion of SOM also warms the shallow soil while cooling the deep soil, which may help to preserve frozen soil in this region. This cooling effect is captured by both observations and offline land surface simulations, but it is overestimated in the offline simulations due to no feedback from the atmosphere compared to the coupled ones. Including SOM in coupled climate models could therefore not only imrove their representations of atmospheric energy and water cycles, but also help to simulate the past, present, and future evolution of frozen soil with increased confidence and reliability. Note that these findings are from one regional climate model and do not apply to wetlands.
The eastern Tibetan Plateau is rich in soil organic matter (SOM), which increases the amount of water the soil can hold while decreasing the rate at which heat moves through it. Although SOM is expected to preserve frozen soil by insulating it from atmospheric warming, researchers have not yet tested the effects of coupled land–atmosphere interactions on this relationship. Using a regional climate model, we show that SOM typically warms and dries the near-surface air, warms the shallow soil, and cools the deep soil by modifying both soil properties and energy exchanges at the land–atmosphere interface. The results suggest that the cooling effect of SOM on deep soil is overestimated when atmospheric feedbacks are excluded.
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