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Lahouari Bounoua, Abdelmounaine Safia, Jeffrey Masek, Christa Peters-Lidard, and Marc L. Imhoff


The authors develop a land use map discriminating urban surfaces from other cover types over a semiarid region in North Africa and use it in a land surface model to assess the impact of urbanized land on surface energy, water, and carbon balances. Unlike in temperate climates where urbanization creates a marked heat island effect, this effect is not strongly marked in semiarid regions. During summer, the urban class results in an additional warming of 1.45°C during daytime and 0.81°C at night relative to that simulated for needleleaf trees under similar climate conditions. Seasonal temperatures show that urban areas are warmer than their surrounding areas during summer and slightly cooler in winter. The hydrological cycle is practically “shut down” during summer and is characterized by relatively large amounts of runoff in winter. The authors estimate the annual amount of carbon uptake to be 1.94 million metric tons with only 11.9% assimilated during the rainy season. However, if urbanization expands to reach 50% of the total area excluding forests, the annual total carbon uptake will decline by 35% and the July mean temperature would increase only 0.10°C relative to the current situation. In contrast, if urbanization expands to 50% of the total land excluding forests and croplands but all short vegetation is replaced by native broadleaf deciduous trees, the annual carbon uptake would increase by 39% and the July mean temperature would decrease by 0.9°C relative to the current configuration. These results provide guidelines for urban planners and land use managers and indicate possibilities for mitigating the urban heat.

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P. Guillevic, R. D. Koster, M. J. Suarez, L. Bounoua, G. J. Collatz, S. O. Los, and S. P. P. Mahanama


The degree to which the interannual variability of vegetation phenology affects hydrological fluxes over land is investigated through a series of simulations with the Mosaic land surface model, run both offline and coupled to the NASA Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project (NSIPP) atmospheric general circulation model (GCM). Over a 9-yr period, from 1982 to 1990, interannual variations of global biophysical land surface parameters (i.e., vegetation density and greenness fraction) are derived from Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data collected by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRRs). First the sensitivity of evapotranspiration to interannual variations in vegetation properties is evaluated through offline simulations that ignore feedbacks between the land surface and the atmospheric models, and interannual precipitation variations. Evapotranspiration is shown to be highly sensitive to variations in vegetation over wet continental surfaces that are not densely vegetated. The sensitivity is reduced by a saturation effect over dense vegetation covers and physiological control due to environmental stress over arid and semiarid regions.

Correlations between evapotranspiration and vegetation anomalies are reduced markedly in offline runs that impose interannual variations in both vegetation and precipitation. They are also strongly reduced in the coupled simulations. Although interannual variations in vegetation properties still influence transpiration and interception loss at the global scale in these runs, their impact on large-scale regional climate is much weaker, apparently because the impact is drowned out by atmospheric variability.

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L. Bounoua, G. J. Collatz, S. O. Los, P. J. Sellers, D. A. Dazlich, C. J. Tucker, and D. A. Randall


The sensitivity of global and regional climate to changes in vegetation density is investigated using a coupled biosphere–atmosphere model. The magnitude of the vegetation changes and their spatial distribution are based on natural decadal variability of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Different scenarios using maximum and minimum vegetation cover were derived from satellite records spanning the period 1982–90.

Albedo decreased in the northern latitudes and increased in the Tropics with increased NDVI. The increase in vegetation density revealed that the vegetation’s physiological response was constrained by the limits of the available water resources. The difference between the maximum and minimum vegetation scenarios resulted in a 46% increase in absorbed visible solar radiation and a similar increase in gross photosynthetic CO2 uptake on a global annual basis. This increase caused the canopy transpiration and interception fluxes to increase and reduced those from the soil. The redistribution of the surface energy fluxes substantially reduced the Bowen ratio during the growing season, resulting in cooler and moister near-surface climate, except when soil moisture was limiting.

Important effects of increased vegetation on climate are

  • a cooling of about 1.8 K in the northern latitudes during the growing season and a slight warming during the winter, which is primarily due to the masking of high albedo of snow by a denser canopy; and

  • a year-round cooling of 0.8 K in the Tropics.

These results suggest that increases in vegetation density could partially compensate for parallel increases in greenhouse warming. Increasing vegetation density globally caused both evapotranspiration and precipitation to increase. Evapotranspiration, however, increased more than precipitation, resulting in a global soil-water deficit of about 15%. A spectral analysis on the simulated results showed that changes in the state of vegetation could affect the low-frequency modes of the precipitation distribution and might reduce its low-frequency variability in the Tropics while increasing it in northern latitudes.

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P.J. Sellers, D.A. Randall, G.J. Collatz, J.A. Berry, C.B. Field, D.A. Dazlich, C. Zhang, G.D. Collelo, and L. Bounoua


The formulation of a revised land surface parameterization for use within atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs) is presented. The model (SiB2) incorporates several significant improvements over the first version of the Simple Biosphere model (SiB) described in Sellers et al. The improvements can be summarized as follows:

(i) incorporation of a realistic canopy photosynthesis–conductance model to describe the simultaneous transfer of CO2 and water vapor into and out of the vegetation, respectively;

(ii) use of satellite data, as described in a companion paper, Part II, to describe the vegetation phonology;

(iii) modification of the hydrological submodel to give better descriptions of baseflows and a more reliable calculation of interlayer exchanges within the soil profile;

(iv) incorporation of a “patchy” snowmelt treatment, which prevents rapid thermal and surface reflectance transitions when the area-averaged snow cover is low and decreasing.

To accommodate the changes in (i) and (ii) above, the original two-layer vegetation canopy structure of SiB2 has been reduced to a single layer in SiB2. The use of satellite data in SiB2 and the performance of SiB2 when coupled to a GCM are described in the two companion papers, Part II and III.

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L. Bounoua, G. J. Collatz, P. J. Sellers, D. A. Randall, D. A. Dazlich, S. O. Los, J. A. Berry, I. Fung, C. J. Tucker, C. B. Field, and T. G. Jensen


The radiative and physiological effects of doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on climate are investigated using a coupled biosphere–atmosphere model. Five 30-yr climate simulations, designed to assess the radiative and physiological effects of doubled CO2, were compared to a 30-yr control run.

When the CO2 concentration was doubled for the vegetation physiological calculations only assuming no changes in vegetation biochemistry, the mean temperature increase over land was rather small (0.3 K) and was associated with a slight decrease in precipitation (−0.3%). In a second case, the vegetation was assumed to have adapted its biochemistry to a doubled CO2 (2 × CO2) atmosphere and this down regulation caused a 35% decrease in stomatal conductance and a 0.7-K increase in land surface temperature. The response of the terrestrial biosphere to radiative forcing alone—that is, a conventional greenhouse warming effect—revealed important interactions between the climate and the vegetation. Although the global mean photosynthesis exhibited no change, a slight stimulation was observed in the tropical regions, whereas in the northern latitudes photosynthesis and canopy conductance decreased as a result of high temperature stress during the growing season. This was associated with a temperature increase of more than 2 K greater in the northern latitudes than in the Tropics (4.0 K vs 1.7 K). These interactions also resulted in an asymmetry in the diurnal temperature cycle, especially in the Tropics where the nighttime temperature increase due to radiative forcing was about twice that of the daytime, an effect not discernible in the daily mean temperatures. The radiative forcing resulted in a mean temperature increase over land of 2.6 K and 7% increase in precipitation with the least effect in the Tropics. As the physiological effects were imposed along with the radiative effects, the overall temperature increase over land was 2.7 K but with a smaller difference (0.7 K) between the northern latitudes and the Tropics. The radiative forcing resulted in an increase in available energy at the earth’s surface and, in the absence of physiological effects, the evapotranspiration increased. However, changes in the physiological control of evapotranspiration due to increased CO2 largely compensated for the radiative effects and reduced the evapotranspiration approximately to its control value.

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D.A. Randall, D.A. Dazlich, C. Zhang, A.S. Denning, P.J. Sellers, C.J. Tucker, L. Bounoua, J.A. Berry, G.J. Collatz, C.B. Field, S.O. Los, C.O. Justice, and I. Fung


SiB2, the second-generation land-surface parameterization developed by Sellers et al., has been incorporated into the Colorado State University general circulation model and tested in multidecade simulation. The control run uses a “bucket” hydrology but employs the same surface albedo and surface roughness distributions as the SiB2 run.

Results show that SiB2 leads to a general warming of the continents, as evidenced in the ground temperature, surface air temperature, and boundary-layer-mean potential temperature. The surface sensible heat flux increases and the latent heat flux decreases. This warming occurs virtually everywhere but is most spectacular over Siberia in winter.

Precipitation generally decreases over land but increases in the monsoon regions, especially the Amazon basin in January and equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia in July. Evaporation decreases considerably, especially in dry regions such as the Sahara. The excess of precipitation over evaporation increases in the monsoon regions.

The precipitable water (vertically integrated water vapor content) generally decreases over land but increases in the monsoon regions. The mixing ratio of the boundary-layer air decreases over newly all continental areas, however, including the monsoon regions. The average (composite) maximum boundary-layer depth over the diurnal cycle increases in the monsoon regions, as does the average PBL turbulence kinetic energy. The average boundary-layer wind speed also increases over most continental regions.

Groundwater content generally increases in rainy regions and decreases in dry regions, so that SiB2 has a tendency to increase its spatial variability. SiB2 leas to a general reduction of cloudiness over land. The net surface longwave cooling of the surface increases quite dramatically over land, in accordance with the increased surface temperatures and decreased cloudiness. The solar radiation absorbed at the ground also increases.

SiB2 has modest effects on the simulated general circulation of the atmosphere. Its most important impacts on the model are to improve the simulations of surface temperature and snow cover and to enable the simulation of the net rate of terrestrial carbon assimilation

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S. O. Los, N. H. Pollack, M. T. Parris, G. J. Collatz, C. J. Tucker, P. J. Sellers, C. M. Malmström, R. S. DeFries, L. Bounoua, and D. A. Dazlich


Global, monthly, 1° by 1° biophysical land surface datasets for 1982–90 were derived from data collected by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the NOAA-7, -9, and -11 satellites. The AVHRR data are adjusted for sensor degradation, volcanic aerosol effects, cloud contamination, short-term atmospheric effects (e.g., water vapor and aerosol effects ⩽2 months), solar zenith angle variations, and missing data. Interannual variation in the data is more realistic as a result. The following biophysical parameters are estimated: fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by vegetation, vegetation cover fraction, leaf area index, and fraction of green leaves. Biophysical retrieval algorithms are tested and updated with data from intensive remote sensing experiments. The multiyear vegetation datasets are consistent spatially and temporally and are useful for studying spatial, seasonal, and interannual variability in the biosphere related to the hydrological cycle, the energy balance, and biogeochemical cycles. The biophysical data are distributed via the Internet by the Goddard Distributed Active Archive Center as a precursor to the International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project (ISLSCP) Initiative II. Release of more extensive, higher-resolution datasets (0.25° by 0.25°) over longer time periods (1982–97/98) is planned for ISLSCP Initiative II.

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