U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Improving Carbon Fluxes in Earth System Models
Published: April 15, 2013
Posted: April 18, 2013

The extreme complexity of earth system models (ESMs) is necessary to represent the many processes underlying terrestrial carbon cycle processes. However, simple models may be useful to qualitatively understand projected dynamic responses to warming and to identify processes missing in the models. A U.S. Department of Energy scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developed a simple model for vegetation carbon response by tracking the movement of the most statistically similar climate at every location in an ESM over past time and recalculating the carbon flux within the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) ESMs. The most important area of disagreement between this simple method and the full ESM calculations are in the southern boreal forest, where ESMs project carbon gains, while the simplified approach projects carbon losses. This finding suggests that potential carbon losses such as forest disturbance and mortality, known to be missing in the ESMs, need to be better represented to robustly predict the carbon response in this region.

Reference: Koven, C. 2013. “Boreal Carbon Loss Due to Poleward Shift in Low-Carbon Ecosystems,” Nature Geoscience, accepted.

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

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