Modeling and Scaling Coupled Energy, Water, and Carbon Fluxes Based on Remote Sensing: An Application to Canada’s Landmass

Baozhang Chen Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Jing M. Chen Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Gang Mo Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Chiu-Wai Yuen Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Hank Margolis Faculté de Foresterie et de Géomatique, Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

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Kaz Higuchi Air Quality Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Douglas Chan Air Quality Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

Land surface models (LSMs) need to be coupled with atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs) to adequately simulate the exchanges of energy, water, and carbon between the atmosphere and terrestrial surfaces. The heterogeneity of the land surface and its interaction with temporally and spatially varying meteorological conditions result in nonlinear effects on fluxes of energy, water, and carbon, making it challenging to scale these fluxes accurately. The issue of up-scaling remains one of the critical unsolved problems in the parameterization of subgrid-scale fluxes in coupled LSM and GCM models.

A new distributed LSM, the Ecosystem–Atmosphere Simulation Scheme (EASS) was developed and coupled with the atmospheric Global Environmental Multiscale model (GEM) to simulate energy, water, and carbon fluxes over Canada’s landmass through the use of remote sensing and ancillary data. Two approaches (lumped case and distributed case) for handling subgrid heterogeneity were used to evaluate the effect of land-cover heterogeneity on regional flux simulations based on remote sensing. Online runs for a week in August 2003 provided an opportunity to investigate model performance and spatial scaling issues.

Comparisons of simulated results with available tower observations (five sites) across an east–west transect over Canada’s southern forest regions indicate that the model is reasonably successful in capturing both the spatial and temporal variations in carbon and energy fluxes, although there were still some biases in estimates of latent and sensible heat fluxes between the simulations and the tower observations. Moreover, the latent and sensible heat fluxes were found to be better modeled in the coupled EASS–GEM system than in the uncoupled GEM. There are marked spatial variations in simulated fluxes over Canada’s landmass. These patterns of spatial variation closely follow vegetation-cover types as well as leaf area index, both of which are highly correlated with the underlying soil types, soil moisture conditions, and soil carbon pools. The surface fluxes modeled by the two up-scaling approaches (lumped and distributed cases) differ by 5%–15% on average and by up to 15%–25% in highly heterogeneous regions. This suggests that different ways of treating subgrid land surface heterogeneities could lead to noticeable biases in model output.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Baozhang Chen, Biometeorology and Soil Physics Group, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. Email: Baozhang.Chen@ubc.ca

Abstract

Land surface models (LSMs) need to be coupled with atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs) to adequately simulate the exchanges of energy, water, and carbon between the atmosphere and terrestrial surfaces. The heterogeneity of the land surface and its interaction with temporally and spatially varying meteorological conditions result in nonlinear effects on fluxes of energy, water, and carbon, making it challenging to scale these fluxes accurately. The issue of up-scaling remains one of the critical unsolved problems in the parameterization of subgrid-scale fluxes in coupled LSM and GCM models.

A new distributed LSM, the Ecosystem–Atmosphere Simulation Scheme (EASS) was developed and coupled with the atmospheric Global Environmental Multiscale model (GEM) to simulate energy, water, and carbon fluxes over Canada’s landmass through the use of remote sensing and ancillary data. Two approaches (lumped case and distributed case) for handling subgrid heterogeneity were used to evaluate the effect of land-cover heterogeneity on regional flux simulations based on remote sensing. Online runs for a week in August 2003 provided an opportunity to investigate model performance and spatial scaling issues.

Comparisons of simulated results with available tower observations (five sites) across an east–west transect over Canada’s southern forest regions indicate that the model is reasonably successful in capturing both the spatial and temporal variations in carbon and energy fluxes, although there were still some biases in estimates of latent and sensible heat fluxes between the simulations and the tower observations. Moreover, the latent and sensible heat fluxes were found to be better modeled in the coupled EASS–GEM system than in the uncoupled GEM. There are marked spatial variations in simulated fluxes over Canada’s landmass. These patterns of spatial variation closely follow vegetation-cover types as well as leaf area index, both of which are highly correlated with the underlying soil types, soil moisture conditions, and soil carbon pools. The surface fluxes modeled by the two up-scaling approaches (lumped and distributed cases) differ by 5%–15% on average and by up to 15%–25% in highly heterogeneous regions. This suggests that different ways of treating subgrid land surface heterogeneities could lead to noticeable biases in model output.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Baozhang Chen, Biometeorology and Soil Physics Group, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. Email: Baozhang.Chen@ubc.ca

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