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Intercomparison of Terrestrial Carbon Fluxes and Carbon Use Efficiency Simulated by CMIP5 Earth System Models

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This study compares historical simulations of the terrestrial carbon cycle produced by 10 Earth System Models (ESMs) that participated in the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Using MODIS satellite estimates, this study validates the simulation of gross primary production (GPP), net primary production (NPP), and carbon use efficiency (CUE), which depend on plant function types (PFTs). The models show noticeable deficiencies compared to the MODIS data in the simulation of the spatial patterns of GPP and NPP and large differences among the simulations, although the multi-model ensemble (MME) mean provides a realistic global mean value and spatial distributions. The larger model spreads in GPP and NPP compared to those of surface temperature and precipitation suggest that the differences among simulations in terms of the terrestrial carbon cycle are largely due to uncertainties in the parameterization of terrestrial carbon fluxes by vegetation. The models also exhibit large spatial differences in their simulated CUE values and at locations where the dominant PFT changes, primarily due to differences in the parameterizations. While the MME-simulated CUE values show a strong dependence on surface temperatures, the observed CUE values from MODIS show greater complexity, as well as non-linear sensitivity. This leads to the overall underestimation of CUE using most of the PFTs incorporated into current ESMs. The results of this comparison suggest that more careful and extensive validation is needed to improve the terrestrial carbon cycle in terms of ecosystem-level processes.

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Correspondence to Myong-In Lee.

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Kim, D., Lee, M., Jeong, S. et al. Intercomparison of Terrestrial Carbon Fluxes and Carbon Use Efficiency Simulated by CMIP5 Earth System Models. Asia-Pacific J Atmos Sci 54, 145–163 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13143-017-0066-8

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Key words

  • Earth system models
  • carbon use efficiency
  • CMIP5
  • gross primary production
  • net primary production