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Author ORCID ID is 0000000158024134
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  1. Simplified representations of processes influencing forest biomass in Earth system models (ESMs) contribute to large uncertainty in projections. We evaluate forest biomass from eight ESMs outputs archived in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) using the biomass data synthesized from radar remote sensing and ground-based observations across northern extratropical latitudes. ESMs exhibit large biases in the forest distribution, forest fraction, and mass of carbon pools that contribute to uncertainty in forest total biomass (biases range from –20 Pg C to 135 Pg C). Forest total biomass is primarily positively correlated with precipitation variations, with surface temperature becoming equallymore » important at higher latitudes, in both simulations and observations. Relatively small differences in forest biomass between the pre-industrial period and the contemporary period indicate uncertainties in forest biomass were introduced in the pre-industrial model equilibration (spin-up), suggesting parametric or structural model differences are a larger source of uncertainty than differences in transient responses. Lastly, our findings emphasize the importance of improved models of carbon allocation to biomass compartments, distribution of vegetation types in models, and reproduction of pre-industrial vegetation conditions, in order to reduce the uncertainty in forest biomass simulated by ESMs.« less
  2. Runoff in the United States is changing, and this study finds that the measured change is dependent on the geographic region and varies seasonally. Specifically, observed annual total runoff had an insignificant increasing trend in the US between 1950 and 2010, but this insignificance was due to regional heterogeneity with both significant and insignificant increases in the eastern, northern, and southern US, and a greater significant decrease in the western US. Trends for seasonal mean runoff also differed across regions. By region, the season with the largest observed trend was autumn for the east (positive), spring for the north (positive),more » winter for the south (positive), winter for the west (negative), and autumn for the US as a whole (positive). Based on the detection and attribution analysis using gridded WaterWatch runoff observations along with semi-factorial land surface model simulations from the Multi-scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP), we found that while the roles of CO 2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, and land use and land cover were inconsistent regionally and seasonally, the effect of climatic variations was detected for all regions and seasons, and the change in runoff could be attributed to climate change in summer and autumn in the south and in autumn in the west. It was also found that the climate-only and historical transient simulations consistently underestimated the runoff trends, possibly due to precipitation bias in the MsTMIP driver or within the models themselves.« less
  3. Understanding how anthropogenic CO 2 emissions will influence future precipitation is critical for sustainably managing ecosystems, particularly for drought-sensitive tropical forests. Although tropical precipitation change remains uncertain, nearly all models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 predict a strengthening zonal precipitation asymmetry by 2100, with relative increases over Asian and African tropical forests and decreases over South American forests. Here we show that the plant physiological response to increasing CO 2 is a primary mechanism responsible for this pattern. Applying a simulation design in the Community Earth System Model in which CO 2 increases are isolated over individualmore » continents, we demonstrate that different circulation, moisture and stability changes arise over each continent due to declines in stomatal conductance and transpiration. The sum of local atmospheric responses over individual continents explains the pan-tropical precipitation asymmetry. Our analysis suggests that South American forests may be more vulnerable to rising CO 2 than Asian or African forests.« less
    Cited by 3
  4. Earth system models (ESMs) simulate a large spread in carbon cycle feedbacks to climate change, particularly in their prediction of cumulative changes in terrestrial carbon storage. Evaluating the performance of ESMs against observations and assessing the likelihood of long-term climate predictions are crucial for model development. Here, we assessed the use of atmospheric CO 2 growth rate variations to evaluate the sensitivity of tropical ecosystem carbon fluxes to interannual temperature variations. We found that the temperature sensitivity of the observed CO 2 growth rate depended on the time scales over which atmospheric CO 2 observations were averaged. The temperature sensitivitymore » of the CO 2 growth rate during Northern Hemisphere winter is most directly related to the tropical carbon flux sensitivity since winter variations in Northern Hemisphere carbon fluxes are relatively small. This metric can be used to test the fidelity of interactions between the physical climate system and terrestrial ecosystems within ESMs, which is especially important since the short-term relationship between ecosystem fluxes and temperature stress may be related to the long-term feedbacks between ecosystems and climate. If the interannual temperature sensitivity is used to constrain long-term temperature responses, the inferred sensitivity may be biased by 20%, unless the seasonality of the relationship between the observed CO 2 growth rate and tropical fluxes is taken into account. Lastly, these results suggest that atmospheric data can be used directly to evaluate regional land fluxes from ESMs, but underscore that the interaction between the time scales for land surface processes and those for atmospheric processes must be considered.« less
  5. Climate change projections to the year 2100 may miss physical-biogeochemical feedbacks that emerge later from the cumulative effects of climate warming. In a coupled climate simulation to the year 2300, the westerly winds strengthen and shift poleward, surface waters warm, and sea ice disappears, leading to intense nutrient trapping in the Southern Ocean. The trapping drives a global-scale nutrient redistribution, with net transfer to the deep ocean. Ensuing surface nutrient reductions north of 30°S drive steady declines in primary production and carbon export (decreases of 24 and 41%, respectively, by 2300). Potential fishery yields, constrained by lower–trophic-level productivity, decrease bymore » more than 20% globally and by nearly 60% in the North Atlantic. Continued high levels of greenhouse gas emissions could suppress marine biological productivity for a millennium.« less
    Cited by 3
  6. Although not considered in climate models, perceived risk stemming from extreme climate events may induce behavioural changes that alter greenhouse gas emissions. Here, we link the C-ROADS climate model to a social model of behavioural change to examine how interactions between perceived risk and emissions behaviour influence projected climate change. Our coupled climate and social model resulted in a global temperature change ranging from 3.4–6.2 °C by 2100 compared with 4.9 °C for the C-ROADS model alone, and led to behavioural uncertainty that was of a similar magnitude to physical uncertainty (2.8 °C versus 3.5 °C). Model components with themore » largest influence on temperature were the functional form of response to extreme events, interaction of perceived behavioural control with perceived social norms, and behaviours leading to sustained emissions reductions. Lastly, our results suggest that policies emphasizing the appropriate attribution of extreme events to climate change and infrastructural mitigation may reduce climate change the most.« less
    Cited by 3
  7. Earth system models (ESMs) have been widely used for projecting global vegetation carbon dynamics, yet how well ESMs performed for simulating vegetation carbon density remains untested. Here we have compiled observational data of vegetation carbon density from literature and existing data sets to evaluate nine ESMs at site, biome, latitude, and global scales. Three variables—root (including fine and coarse roots), total vegetation carbon density, and the root:total vegetation carbon ratios (R/T ratios), were chosen for ESM evaluation. ESM models performed well in simulating the spatial distribution of carbon densities in root (r = 0.71) and total vegetation (r = 0.62).more » However, ESM models had significant biases in simulating absolute carbon densities in root and total vegetation biomass across the majority of land ecosystems, especially in tropical and arctic ecosystems. Particularly, ESMs significantly overestimated carbon density in root (183%) and total vegetation biomass (167%) in climate zones of 10°S–10°N. Substantial discrepancies between modeled and observed R/T ratios were found: the R/T ratios from ESMs were relatively constant, approximately 0.2 across all ecosystems, along latitudinal gradients, and in tropic, temperate, and arctic climatic zones, which was significantly different from the observed large variations in the R/T ratios (0.1–0.8). There were substantial inconsistencies between ESM-derived carbon density in root and total vegetation biomass and the R/T ratio at multiple scales, indicating urgent needs for model improvements on carbon allocation algorithms and more intensive field campaigns targeting carbon density in all key vegetation components.« less
  8. Rising atmospheric CO 2 will make Earth warmer, and many studies have inferred that this warming will cause droughts to become more widespread and severe. However, rising atmospheric CO 2 also modifies stomatal conductance and plant water use, processes that are often are overlooked in impact analysis. We find that plant physiological responses to CO 2 reduce predictions of future drought stress, and that this reduction is captured by using plant-centric rather than atmosphere-centric metrics from Earth system models (ESMs). The atmosphere-centric Palmer Drought Severity Index predicts future increases in drought stress for more than 70% of global land area.more » This area drops to 37% with the use of precipitation minus evapo-transpiration (P-E), a measure that represents the water flux available to downstream ecosystems and humans. The two metrics yield consistent estimates of increasing stress in regions where precipitation decreases are more robust (southern North America, northeastern South America, and southern Europe). The metrics produce diverging estimates elsewhere, with P-E predicting decreasing stress across temperate Asia and central Africa. The differing sensitivity of drought metrics to radiative and physiological aspects of increasing CO 2 partly explains the divergent estimates of future drought reported in recent studies. Further, use of ESM output in offline models may double-count plant feedbacks on relative humidity and other surface variables, leading to overestimates of future stress. The use of drought metrics that account for the response of plant transpiration to changing CO 2, including direct use of P-E and soil moisture from ESMs, is needed to reduce uncertainties in future assessment.« less
    Cited by 58Full Text Available
  9. A number of nonlinear microbial models of soil carbon decomposition have been developed. Some of them have been applied globally but have yet to be shown to realistically represent soil carbon dynamics in the field. A thorough analysis of their key differences is needed to inform future model developments. In this paper, we compare two nonlinear microbial models of soil carbon decomposition: one based on reverse Michaelis–Menten kinetics (model A) and the other on regular Michaelis–Menten kinetics (model B). Using analytic approximations and numerical solutions, we find that the oscillatory responses of carbon pools to a small perturbation in theirmore » initial pool sizes dampen faster in model A than in model B. Soil warming always decreases carbon storage in model A, but in model B it predominantly decreases carbon storage in cool regions and increases carbon storage in warm regions. For both models, the CO 2 efflux from soil carbon decomposition reaches a maximum value some time after increased carbon input (as in priming experiments). This maximum CO 2 efflux (F max) decreases with an increase in soil temperature in both models. However, the sensitivity of F max to the increased amount of carbon input increases with soil temperature in model A but decreases monotonically with an increase in soil temperature in model B. These differences in the responses to soil warming and carbon input between the two nonlinear models can be used to discern which model is more realistic when compared to results from field or laboratory experiments. Lastly, these insights will contribute to an improved understanding of the significance of soil microbial processes in soil carbon responses to future climate change.« less

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