Simulations by global terrestrial biogeochemical models (TBMs) consistently underestimate the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at high latitude monitoring stations during the nongrowing season. We hypothesized that heterotrophic respiration is underestimated during the nongrowing season primarily because TBMs do not generally consider the insulative effects of snowpack on soil temperature. To evaluate this hypothesis, we compared the performance of baseline and modified versions of three TBMs in simulating the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2 at high latitude CO2 monitoring stations; the modified version maintained soil temperature at 0 ??C when modeled snowpack was present. The three TBMs include the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA), Century, and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM). In comparison with the baseline simulation of each model, the snowpack simulations caused higher releases of CO2 between November and March and greater uptake of CO2 between June and August for latitudes north of 30??N. We coupled the monthly estimates of CO2 exchange, the seasonal carbon dioxide flux fields generated by the HAMOCC3 seasonal ocean carbon cycle model, and fossil fuel source fields derived from standard sources to the three-dimensional atmospheric transport model TM2 forced by observed winds to simulate the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2 at each of seven high latitude monitoring stations, in comparison to the CO2 concentrations simulated with the baseline fluxes of each TBM, concentrations simulated using the snowpack fluxes are generally in better agreement with observed concentrations between August and March at each of the monitoring stations. Thus, representation of the insulative effects of snowpack in TBMs generally improves simulation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in high latitudes during both the late growing season and nongrowing season. These simulations highlight the global importance of biogeochemical processes during the nongrowing season in estimating carbon balance of ecosystems in northern high and temperate latitudes.
Additional publication details
Modeling the effects of snowpack on heterotrophic respiration across northern temperate and high latitude regions: Comparison with measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide in high latitudes