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Vegetation feedback under future global warming

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Abstract

It has been well documented that vegetation plays an important role in the climate system. However, vegetation is typically kept constant when climate models are used to project anthropogenic climate change under a range of emission scenarios in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emission Scenarios. Here, an atmospheric general circulation model, and an asynchronously coupled system of an atmospheric and an equilibrium terrestrial biosphere model are forced by monthly sea surface temperature and sea ice extent for the periods 2051–2060 and 2090–2098 as projected with 17 atmosphere–ocean general circulation models participating in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and by appropriate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations under the A2 emission scenario. The effects of vegetation feedback under future global warming are then investigated. It is found that the simulated composition and distribution of vegetation during 2051–2060 (2090–2098) differ greatly from the present, and global vegetation tends to become denser as expressed by a 21% (36%) increase in global mean leaf area index, which is most pronounced at the middle and high northern latitudes. Vegetation feedback has little effect on globally averaged surface temperature. On a regional scale, however, it induces statistically significant changes in surface temperature, in particular over most parts of continental Eurasia east of about 60°E where annual surface temperature is expected to increase by 0.1–1.0 K, with an average of about 0.4 K for each future period. These changes can mostly be explained by changes in surface albedo resulting from vegetation changes in the context of future global warming.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to sincerely thank Werner Eugster and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. Also, we acknowledge the modeling groups for making their model output available for analysis, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) for collecting and archiving these data, and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for organizing the model data analysis activity. The WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset is supported by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. This work was supported by the Chinese National Basic Research Program (2009CB421407), the Special Scientific Research Fund of Meteorological Public Welfare Profession (GYHY200906020), the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-EW-QN202), and the National Natural Science Foundation (40505017 and 40975050).

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Correspondence to Dabang Jiang.

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Jiang, D., Zhang, Y. & Lang, X. Vegetation feedback under future global warming. Theor Appl Climatol 106, 211–227 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-011-0428-6

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