, Volume 30, Issue 2-3, pp 145-160
Date: 26 Jun 2007

Incorporating organic soil into a global climate model

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Abstract

Organic matter significantly alters a soil’s thermal and hydraulic properties but is not typically included in land-surface schemes used in global climate models. This omission has consequences for ground thermal and moisture regimes, particularly in the high-latitudes where soil carbon content is generally high. Global soil carbon data is used to build a geographically distributed, profiled soil carbon density dataset for the Community Land Model (CLM). CLM parameterizations for soil thermal and hydraulic properties are modified to accommodate both mineral and organic soil matter. Offline simulations including organic soil are characterized by cooler annual mean soil temperatures (up to ∼2.5°C cooler for regions of high soil carbon content). Cooling is strong in summer due to modulation of early and mid-summer soil heat flux. Winter temperatures are slightly warmer as organic soils do not cool as efficiently during fall and winter. High porosity and hydraulic conductivity of organic soil leads to a wetter soil column but with comparatively low surface layer saturation levels and correspondingly low soil evaporation. When CLM is coupled to the Community Atmosphere Model, the reduced latent heat flux drives deeper boundary layers, associated reductions in low cloud fraction, and warmer summer air temperatures in the Arctic. Lastly, the insulative properties of organic soil reduce interannual soil temperature variability, but only marginally. This result suggests that, although the mean soil temperature cooling will delay the simulated date at which frozen soil begins to thaw, organic matter may provide only limited insulation from surface warming.