Climate Dynamics

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 237–251

Atmosphere-land cover feedbacks alter the response of surface temperature to CO2 forcing in the western United States


DOI: 10.1007/s00382-004-0503-0

Cite this article as:
Diffenbaugh, N.S. Clim Dyn (2005) 24: 237. doi:10.1007/s00382-004-0503-0


In order to test the sensitivity of regional climate to regional-scale atmosphere-land cover feedbacks, we have employed a regional climate model asynchronously coupled to an equilibrium vegetation model, focusing on the western United States as a case study. CO2-induced atmosphere-land cover feedbacks resulted in statistically significant seasonal temperature changes of up to 3.5°C, with land cover change accounting for up to 60% of the total seasonal response to elevated atmospheric CO2 levels. In many areas, such as the Great Basin, albedo acted as the primary control on changes in surface temperature. Along the central coast of California, soil moisture effects magnified the temperature response in JJA and SON, with negative surface soil moisture anomalies accompanied by negative evaporation anomalies, decreasing latent heat flux and further increasing surface temperature. Additionally, negative temperature anomalies were calculated at high elevation in California and Oregon in DJF, MAM and SON, indicating that future warming of these sensitive areas could be mitigated by changes in vegetation distribution and an associated muting of winter snow-temperature feedbacks. Precipitation anomalies were almost universally not statistically significant, and very little change in mean seasonal atmospheric circulation occurred in response to atmosphere-land cover feedbacks. Further, the mean regional temperature sensitivity to regional-scale land cover feedbacks did not exceed the large-scale sensitivity calculated elsewhere, indicating that spatial heterogeneity does not introduce non-linearities in the response of regional climate to CO2-induced atmosphere-land cover feedbacks.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2. Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesPurdue UniversityWest Lafayette