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  • Author or Editor: Peter E. Thornton x
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David M. Lawrence, Peter E. Thornton, Keith W. Oleson, and Gordon B. Bonan


Although the global partitioning of evapotranspiration (ET) into transpiration, soil evaporation, and canopy evaporation is not well known, most current land surface schemes and the few available observations indicate that transpiration is the dominant component on the global scale, followed by soil evaporation and canopy evaporation. The Community Land Model version 3 (CLM3), however, does not reflect this global view of ET partitioning, with soil evaporation and canopy evaporation far outweighing transpiration. One consequence of this unrealistic ET partitioning in CLM3 is that photosynthesis, which is linked to transpiration through stomatal conductance, is significantly underestimated on a global basis. A number of modifications to CLM3 vegetation and soil hydrology parameterizations are described that improve ET partitioning and reduce an apparent dry soil bias in CLM3. The modifications reduce canopy interception and evaporation, reduce soil moisture stress on transpiration, increase transpiration through a more realistic canopy integration scheme, reduce within-canopy soil evaporation, eliminate lateral drainage of soil water, increase infiltration of water into the soil, and increase the vertical redistribution of soil water. The partitioning of ET is improved, with notable increases seen in transpiration (13%–41% of global ET) and photosynthesis (65–148 Pg C yr−1). Soils are wetter and exhibit a far more distinct soil moisture annual cycle and greater interseasonal soil water storage, which permits plants to sustain transpiration through the dry season.

The broader influences of improved ET partitioning on land–atmosphere interaction are diverse. Stronger transpiration and reduced canopy evaporation yield an extended ET response to rain events and a shift in the precipitation distribution toward more frequent small- to medium-size rain events. Soil moisture memory time scales decrease particularly at deeper soil levels. Subsurface soil moisture exerts a slightly greater influence on precipitation. These results indicate that partitioning of ET is an important responsibility for land surface schemes, a responsibility that will gain in relevance as GCMs evolve to incorporate ever more complex treatments of the earth’s carbon and hydrologic cycles.

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