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A. D. McGuire, J. E. Walsh, J. S. Kimball, J. S. Clein, S. E. Euskirchen, S. Drobot, U. C. Herzfeld, J. Maslanik, R. B. Lammers, M. A. Rawlins, C. J. Vorosmarty, T. S. Rupp, W. Wu, and M. Calef

Abstract

The primary goal of the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE) was to better understand uncertainties of simulated hydrologic and ecosystem dynamics of the western Arctic in the context of 1) uncertainties in the data available to drive the models and 2) different approaches to simulating regional hydrology and ecosystem dynamics. Analyses of datasets on climate available for driving hydrologic and ecosystem models within the western Arctic during the late twentieth century indicate that there are substantial differences among the mean states of datasets for temperature, precipitation, vapor pressure, and radiation variables. Among the studies that examined temporal trends among the alternative climate datasets, there is not much consensus on trends among the datasets. In contrast, monthly and interannual variations of some variables showed some correlation across the datasets. The application of hydrology models driven by alternative climate drivers revealed that the simulation of regional hydrology was sensitive to precipitation and water vapor differences among the driving datasets and that accurate simulation of regional water balance is limited by biases in the forcing data. Satellite-based analyses for the region indicate that vegetation productivity of the region increased during the last two decades of the twentieth century because of earlier spring thaw, and the temporal variability of vegetation productivity simulated by different models from 1980 to 2000 was generally consistent with estimates based on the satellite record for applications driven with alternative climate datasets. However, the magnitude of the fluxes differed by as much as a factor of 2.5 among applications driven with different climate data, and spatial patterns of temporal trends in carbon dynamics were quite different among simulations. Finally, the study identified that the simulation of fire by ecosystem models is particularly sensitive to alternative climate datasets, with little or no fire simulated for some datasets. The results of WALE identify the importance of conducting retrospective analyses prior to coupling hydrology and ecosystem models with climate system models. For applications of hydrology and ecosystem models driven by projections of future climate, the authors recommend a coupling strategy in which future changes from climate model simulations are superimposed on the present mean climate of the most reliable datasets of historical climate.

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Ute C. Herzfeld, Sheldon Drobot, Wanli Wu, Charles Fowler, and James Maslanik

Abstract

The Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE) is aimed at understanding the role of high-latitude terrestrial ecosystems in the response of the Arctic system to global change through collection and comparison of climate datasets and model results. In this paper, a spatiotemporal approach is taken to compare and validate model results from the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) with commonly used analysis and reanalysis datasets for monthly averages of temperature and precipitation in 1992–2000 and for a study area at 55°–65°N, 160°–110°W in northwestern Canada and Alaska.

Objectives include a quantitative assessment of similarity between datasets and climate model fields, and identification of geographic areas and seasons that are problematic in modeling, with potential causes that may aid in model improvement. These are achieved by application of algebraic similarity mapping, a simple yet effective method for synoptic analysis of many (here, 45) different spatial datasets, maps, and models. Results indicate a dependence of model–data similarity on seasonality, on climate variable, and on geographic location. In summary, 1) similarity of data and models is better for temperature than for precipitation; and 2) modeling of summer precipitation fields, and to a lesser extent, temperature fields, appears more problematic than that of winter fields. The geographic distribution of areas with best and worst agreement shifts throughout the year, with generally better agreement between maps and models in the northeastern and northern inland areas than in topographically complex and near-coastal areas. The study contributes to an understanding of the geographic complexity of the Arctic system and modeling its diverse climate.

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Joy Clein, A. David McGuire, Eugenie S. Euskirchen, and Monika Calef

Abstract

As part of the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE), simulations of carbon dynamics in the western Arctic (WALE region) were conducted during two recent decades by driving the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) with three alternative climate datasets. Among the three TEM simulations, we compared the mean monthly and interannual variability of three carbon fluxes: 1) net primary production (NPP), 2) heterotrophic respiration (Rh), and 3) net ecosystem production (NEP). Cumulative changes in vegetation, soil, and total carbon storage among the simulations were also compared. This study supports the conclusion that the terrestrial carbon cycle is accelerating in the WALE region, with more rapid turnover of carbon for simulations driven by two of the three climates. The temperature differences among the climate datasets resulted in annual estimates of NPP and Rh that varied by a factor of 2.5 among the simulations. There is much spatial variability in the temporal trends of NPP and Rh across the region in the simulations driven by different climates, and the spatial pattern of trends is quite different among simulations. Thus, this study indicates that the overall response of NEP in simulations with TEM across the WALE region depends substantially on the temporal trends in the climate dataset used to drive the model. Similar to the recommendations of other studies in the WALE project, this study indicates that coupling methodologies should use anomalies of future climate model simulations to alter the climate of more trusted datasets for purposes of driving ecosystem models of carbon dynamics.

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Wanli Wu, Amanda H. Lynch, Sheldon Drobot, James Maslanik, A. David McGuire, and Ute Herzfeld

Abstract

Accurate estimates of the spatial and temporal variation in terrestrial water and energy fluxes and mean states are important for simulating regional hydrology and biogeochemistry in high-latitude regions. Furthermore, it is necessary to develop high-resolution hydroclimatological datasets at finer spatial resolutions than are currently available from global analyses. This study uses a regional climate model (RCM) to develop a hydroclimatological dataset for hydrologic and ecological application in the Western Arctic. The fifth-generation Penn State–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) forced by global reanalysis products at the boundaries is used to perform 12 yr of simulation (1990 through 2001) over the Western Arctic. An analysis that compares the RCM simulations with independent observationally derived data sources is conducted to evaluate the temporal and spatial distribution of the mean states, variability, and trends during the period of simulation. The RCM simulation of sea level pressure agrees well with the reanalysis in terms of mean states, seasonality, and interannual variability. The RCM also simulates major spatial patterns of the observed climatology of surface air temperature (SAT), but RCM SAT is generally colder in the summertime and warmer in the wintertime in comparison with other datasets. Although there are biases in the mean state of SAT, the RCM simulations of the seasonal and interannual variability of SAT are similar to variability in observationally derived datasets. The RCM also simulates general spatial patterns of observed rainfall, but the modeled mean state of precipitation is characterized by large biases relative to observationally derived datasets. In particular, the RCM tends to overestimate coastal region precipitation but underestimates precipitation in the interior of the Western Arctic. The Arctic terrestrial surface climate trends for the period of 1992 to 2001 of the RCM are similar to those derived from observations, with sea level pressure decreasing 0.15 hPa decade−1, SAT increasing 0.10°C decade−1, and precipitation decreasing slightly in the RCM simulations. In summary, the RCM dataset produced in this study represents an improvement over data currently available from large-scale global reanalysis and provides a consistent meteorological forcing dataset for hydrologic and ecological applications.

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J. S. Kimball, M. Zhao, A. D. McGuire, F. A. Heinsch, J. Clein, M. Calef, W. M. Jolly, S. Kang, S. E. Euskirchen, K. C. McDonald, and S. W. Running

Abstract

Northern ecosystems contain much of the global reservoir of terrestrial carbon that is potentially reactive in the context of near-term climate change. Annual variability and recent trends in vegetation productivity across Alaska and northwest Canada were assessed using a satellite remote sensing–based production efficiency model and prognostic simulations of the terrestrial carbon cycle from the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) and BIOME–BGC (BioGeoChemical Cycles) model. Evidence of a small, but widespread, positive trend in vegetation gross and net primary production (GPP and NPP) is found for the region from 1982 to 2000, coinciding with summer warming of more than 1.8°C and subsequent relaxation of cold temperature constraints to plant growth. Prognostic model simulation results were generally consistent with the remote sensing record and also indicated that an increase in soil decomposition and plant-available nitrogen with regional warming was partially responsible for the positive productivity response. Despite a positive trend in litter inputs to the soil organic carbon pool, the model results showed evidence of a decline in less labile soil organic carbon, which represents approximately 75% of total carbon storage for the region. These results indicate that the regional carbon cycle may accelerate under a warming climate by increasing the fraction of total carbon storage in vegetation biomass and more rapid turnover of the terrestrial carbon reservoir.

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T. Scott Rupp, Xi Chen, Mark Olson, and A. David McGuire

Abstract

Projected climatic warming has direct implications for future disturbance regimes, particularly fire-dominated ecosystems at high latitudes, where climate warming is expected to be most dramatic. It is important to ascertain the potential range of climate change impacts on terrestrial ecosystems, which is relevant to making projections of the response of the Earth system and to decisions by policymakers and land managers. Computer simulation models that explicitly model climate–fire relationships represent an important research tool for understanding and projecting future relationships. Retrospective model analyses of ecological models are important for evaluating how to effectively couple ecological models of fire dynamics with climate system models. This paper uses a transient landscape-level model of vegetation dynamics, Alaskan Frame-based Ecosystem Code (ALFRESCO), to evaluate the influence of different driving datasets of climate on simulation results. Our analysis included the use of climate data based on first-order weather station observations from the Climate Research Unit (CRU), a statistical reanalysis from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis project (NCEP), and the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). Model simulations of annual area burned for Alaska and western Canada were compared to historical fire activity (1950–2000). ALFRESCO was only able to generate reasonable simulation results when driven by the CRU climate data. Simulations driven by the NCEP and MM5 climate data produced almost no annual area burned because of substantially colder and wetter growing seasons (May–September) in comparison with the CRU climate data. The results of this study identify the importance of conducting retrospective analyses prior to coupling ecological models of fire dynamics with climate system models. The authors’ suggestion is to develop coupling methodologies that involve the use of anomalies from future climate model simulations to alter the climate data of more trusted historical climate datasets.

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J. S. Kimball, K. C. McDonald, and M. Zhao

Abstract

Global satellite remote sensing records show evidence of recent vegetation greening and an advancing growing season at high latitudes. Satellite remote sensing–derived measures of photosynthetic leaf area index (LAI) and vegetation gross and net primary productivity (GPP and NPP) from the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Pathfinder record are utilized to assess annual variability in vegetation productivity for Alaska and northwest Canada in association with the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE). These results are compared with satellite microwave remote sensing measurements of springtime thaw from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I). The SSM/I-derived timing of the primary springtime thaw event was well correlated with annual anomalies in maximum LAI in spring and summer (P ≤ 0.009; n = 13), and GPP and NPP (P ≤ 0.0002) for the region. Mean annual variability in springtime thaw was on the order of ±7 days, with corresponding impacts to annual productivity of approximately 1% day−1. Years with relatively early seasonal thawing showed generally greater LAI and annual productivity, while years with delayed seasonal thawing showed corresponding reductions in canopy cover and productivity. The apparent sensitivity of LAI and vegetation productivity to springtime thaw indicates that a recent advance in the seasonal thaw cycle and associated lengthening of the potential period of photosynthesis in spring is sufficient to account for the sign and magnitude of an estimated positive vegetation productivity trend for the western Arctic from 1982 to 2000.

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Sheldon Drobot, James Maslanik, Ute Christina Herzfeld, Charles Fowler, and Wanli Wu

Abstract

A better understanding of the interannual variability in temperature and precipitation datasets used as forcing fields for hydrologic models will lead to a more complete description of hydrologic model uncertainty, in turn helping scientists study the larger goal of how the Arctic terrestrial system is responding to global change. Accordingly, this paper investigates temporal and spatial variability in monthly mean (1992–2000) temperature and precipitation datasets over the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE) study region. The six temperature datasets include 1) the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5); 2) the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40); 3) the Advanced Polar Pathfinder all-sky temperatures (APP); 4) National Centers for Environmental Prediction– National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalyses (NCEP1); 5) the Climatic Research Unit/University of East Anglia CRUTEM2v (CRU); and 6) the Matsuura and Wilmott 0.5° × 0.5° Global Surface Air Temperature and Precipitation (MW). Comparisons of monthly precipitation are examined for MM5, ERA-40, NCEP1, CRU, and MW. Results of the temporal analyses indicate significant differences between at least two datasets (for either temperature or precipitation) in almost every month. The largest number of significant differences for temperature occurs in October, when there are five separate groupings; for precipitation, there are four significantly different groupings from March through June, and again in December. Spatial analyses of June temperatures indicate that the greatest dissimilarity is concentrated in the central portion of the study region, with the NCEP1 and APP datasets showing the greatest differences. In comparison, the spatial analysis of June precipitation datasets suggests that the largest dissimilarity is concentrated in the eastern portion of the study region. These results indicate that the choice of forcing datasets likely will have a significant effect on the output from hydrologic models, and several different datasets should be used for a robust hydrologic assessment.

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M. A. Rawlins, S. Frolking, R. B. Lammers, and C. J. Vörösmarty

Abstract

Hydrological models require accurate precipitation and air temperature inputs in order to adequately depict water fluxes and storages across Arctic regions. Biases such as gauge undercatch, as well as uncertainties in numerical weather prediction reanalysis data that propagate through water budget models, limit the ability to accurately model the terrestrial arctic water cycle. A hydrological model forced with three climate datasets and three methods of estimating potential evapotranspiration (PET) was used to better understand the impact of these processes on simulated water fluxes across the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE) domain. Climate data were drawn from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis (NNR) (NCEP1), a modified version of the NNR (NCEP2), and the Willmott–Matsuura (WM) dataset. PET methods applied in the model were Hamon, Penman–Monteith, and Penman–Monteith using adjusted vapor pressure data.

High vapor pressures in the NNR lead to low simulated evapotranspiration (ET) in model runs using the Penman–Monteith PET method, resulting in increased runoff. Annual ET derived from simulations using Penman–Monteith PET was half the magnitude of ET simulated when the Hamon method was used. Adjustments made to the reanalysis vapor pressure data increased the simulated ET flux, reducing simulated runoff. Using the NCEP2 or WM climate data, along with the Penman–Monteith PET function, results in agreement to within 7% between the simulated and observed runoff across the Yukon River basin. The results reveal the high degree of uncertainty present in climate data and the range of water fluxes generated from common model drivers. This suggests the need for thorough evaluations of model requirements and potential biases in forcing data, as well as corroborations with observed data, in all efforts to simulate arctic water balances.

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