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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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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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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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Jingfeng Xiao, Qianlai Zhuang, Eryuan Liang, Xuemei Shao, A. David McGuire, Aaron Moody, David W. Kicklighter, and Jerry M. Melillo

Abstract

Midlatitude regions experienced frequent droughts during the twentieth century, but their impacts on terrestrial carbon balance are unclear. This paper presents a century-scale study of drought effects on the carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in China. The authors first characterized the severe extended droughts over the period 1901–2002 using the Palmer drought severity index and then examined how these droughts affected the terrestrial carbon dynamics using tree-ring width chronologies and a process-based biogeochemistry model, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM). It is found that China suffered from a series of severe extended droughts during the twentieth century. The major drought periods included 1920–30, 1939–47, 1956–58, 1960–63, 1965–68, 1978–80, and 1999–2002. Most droughts generally reduced net primary productivity (NPP) and net ecosystem productivity (NEP) in large parts of drought-affected areas. Moreover, some of the droughts substantially reduced the countrywide annual NPP and NEP. Out of the seven droughts, three (1920–30, 1965–68, and 1978–80) caused the countrywide terrestrial ecosystems to switch from a carbon sink to a source, and one (1960–63) substantially reduced the magnitude of the countrywide terrestrial carbon sink. Strong decreases in NPP were mainly responsible for the anomalies in annual NEP during these drought periods. Changes in heterotrophic respiration happened in the same direction, but mostly with smaller magnitude. The results show that severe extended droughts had significant effects on terrestrial carbon cycling in China, although future studies should consider other important processes such as drought-induced mortality and regrowth, land-use change, disturbances (e.g., fire), human management (e.g., fertilization and irrigation), and environmental pollution (e.g., ozone pollution, nitrogen deposition). These drought effects are of particular importance in light of projected widespread summer drying in midlatitude regions during the twenty-first century. Future droughts could lead to a reduced terrestrial carbon sink or even a source and exert a positive feedback to the global climate system.

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