, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 91–114 | Cite as

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

  • A.D. McGuire
  • J.M. Melillo
  • J.T. Randerson
  • W.J. Parton
  • M. Heimann
  • R.A. Meier
  • J.S. Clein
  • D.W. Kicklighter
  • W. Sauf


Simulations by global terrestrial biogeochemical models (TBMs) consistently underestimate the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2 at high latitude monitoring stations during the non-growing 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.

carbon dioxide ecological modeling global carbon cycle heterotrophic respiration net ecosystem production 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brooks PD, Williams MW, Walker DA & Smidt SK (1995) The Niwot Ridge snow fence experiment: Biogeochemical responses to changes in the seasonal snowpack. In: Tonnessen KA et al. (Eds) Biogeochemistry of Seasonally Snow-Covered Catchments (pp 293–301). International Association of Hydrological CyclesGoogle Scholar
  2. Brooks PD, Williams MW & Smidt SK (1996) Microbial activity under alpine snowpacks, Niwot Ridge, Colorado. Biogeochemistry 32: 93–113Google Scholar
  3. Brooks PD, Smidt SK & Williams MW (1997) Winter production of CO2 and N2O from alpine tundra: Environmental controls and relationship to inter-system C and N fluxes. Oecologia 110: 403–413Google Scholar
  4. Beltrami H & Mareschal JC (1991) Recent warming in eastern Canada inferred from geothermal measurements. Geophysical Research Letters 18: 605–608Google Scholar
  5. Chapin FS III, Shaver GR, Giblin AE, Nadelhoffer KJ & Laundre LA (1995) Responses of arctic tundra to experimental and observed changes in climate. Ecology 76: 694–711Google Scholar
  6. Chapman WL & Walsh JE (1993) Recent variations of sea ice and air temperatures in high latitudes. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 74: 33–47Google Scholar
  7. Conway TJ, Tans PP, Waterman LS, Thoning KW, Buanerkitzis DR, Masarie KA & Zhang N (1994a) Evidence for interannual variability of the carbon cycle from the NOAA/CMDL global air sampling network. J. Geophys. Res. 99D: 22,831–22,855Google Scholar
  8. Conway TJ, Tans PP & Waterman LS (1994b) Atmospheric CO2 from sites in the NOAA/CMDL air sampling network. In: Boden TA et al. (Eds) Trends '93: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (pp 41–119) ORNL/CDIAC-65. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  9. Coxson DS & Parkinson D (1987) Winter respiratory activity in aspen woodland forest floor litter and soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19: 49–59Google Scholar
  10. Coyne PI & Kelley JJ (1971) Release of carbon dioxide from frozen soil to the arctic atmosphere. Nature 234: 407–408Google Scholar
  11. Coyne PI & Kelley JJ (1974) Variations in carbon dioxide across an arctic snowpack during spring. J. Geophys. Res. 79: 799- 802Google Scholar
  12. Cramer W, Kicklighter DW, Bondeau A, Moore B III, Churkina G, Nemry B, Ruimy A, Schloss A & the participants of “Potsdam '95” (1999) Comparing global models of terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP): Overview and key results. Global Change Biology. In pressGoogle Scholar
  13. Field CB, Randerson JT & Malmstrom CM (1995) Ecosystem net primary production: Combining ecology and remote sensing. Remote Sens. Environ. 51: 74–88Google Scholar
  14. Field CB, Berenfeld MJ, Randerson JT & Falkowski P (1998) Primary production of the biosphere: Integrating terrestrial and oceanic components. Science 281: 237–240Google Scholar
  15. Fung I, Prentice K, Matthews E, Lerner J & Russel G (1983) Three-dimensional tracer model study of atmospheric CO2: Response to seasonal exchanges with the terrestrial biosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 88C: 1281–1294Google Scholar
  16. Fung IY, Tucker CJ & Prentice KC (1987) Application of advanced very high resolution radiometer vegetation index to study atmosphere-biosphere exchange of CO2. J. Geophys. Res. 92D: 2999–3015Google Scholar
  17. Goulden ML, Wofsy SC, Harden JW, Trumbore SE, Crill PM, Gower ST, Fries T, Daube BC, Fan S-M, Sutton DJ, Bazzaz A & Munger JW (1998) Sensitivity of boreal forest carbon balance to soil thaw. Science 279: 214–217PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Haxeltine A & Prentice IC (1996) BIOME3: An equilibrium terrestrial biosphere model based on ecophysiological constraints, resource availability, and competition among plant functional types. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 693–710Google Scholar
  19. Heimann M (1995) The TM2 Tracer Model, Model Description and User Manual DKRZ Report 10, Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg.Google Scholar
  20. Heimann M & Keeling CD (1989) A three-dimensional model of atmospheric CO2 transport based on observed winds: 2. Model description and simulated tracer experiments. In: Peterson DH (Ed) Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas (pp 237–275). American Geophysical Union, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  21. Heimann M, Keeling CD & Tucker CJ (1989) A three dimensional model of atmospheric CO2 transport based on observed winds: 3. Seasonal cycle and synoptic time scale variations. In: Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas (pp 277–303). American Geophysical Union, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  22. Heimann M, Esser G, Haxeltine A, Kaduk J, Kicklighter DW, Knorr W, Kohlmaier GH, McGuire AD, Melillo JM, Moore B III, Otto RD, Prentice IC, Sauf W, Schloss A, Sitch S, Wittenberg U & Wurth G (1998) Evaluation of terrestrial carbon cycle models through simulations of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2: First results of a model intercomparison study. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 12: 1–24Google Scholar
  23. Hunt ER, Piper SC, Nemani R, Keeling CD, Otto RD & Running SW(1996) Global net carbon exchange and intra-annual atmospheric CO2 concentrations predicted by an ecosystem process model and three-dimensional atmospheric transport model. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 431–456Google Scholar
  24. Iacobellis SF, Frouin R, Razafimpanilo H, Somerville RCJ & Piper SC (1994) North African Savanna fires and atmospheric carbon dioxide. J. Geophys. Res. 99D: 8321–8334Google Scholar
  25. Jones MH, Fahnestock JT & Welker JM (1999) Early and late winter CO2 efflux from arctic tundra in the Kuparuk River watershed, Alaska. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research. In pressGoogle Scholar
  26. Kaminski T, Giering R & Heimann M (1996) Sensitivity of the seasonal cycle of CO2 at remote monitoring stations with respect to seasonal surface exchange fluxes determined with the adjoint of an atmospheric transport model. Physics of the Chemistry and the Earth 21: 457–462Google Scholar
  27. Kelley JJ, Weaver DF & Smith BP (1968) The variation of carbon dioxide under the snow in the arctic. Ecology 49: 358–361Google Scholar
  28. Kicklighter DW, Melillo JM, Peterjohn WT, Rastetter EB, McGuire AD, Steudler PA & Aber JD (1994) Aspects of spatial and temporal aggregation in estimating regional carbon dioxide fluxes from temperate forest soils. Journal of Geophysical Research 99D: 1303–1315Google Scholar
  29. Kicklighter DW, Fischer A., Schloss AL, Plochl M, McGuire AD & the other participants of “Potsdam '95” (1999) Comparing global models of terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP): Global pattern and differentiation by major biomes. Global Change Biology. In pressGoogle Scholar
  30. Kling GW, Kipphut GW & Miller MC (1991) Arctic lakes and streams as gas conduits to the atmosphere: Implications for tundra carbon budgets. Science 251: 298–301Google Scholar
  31. Knorr W & Heimann M (1995) Impact of drought stress and other factors on seasonal land biosphere CO2 exchange studied through an atmospheric tracer transport model. Tellus 47B: 171–189Google Scholar
  32. Lachenbruch AH & Marshall BV (1986) Climate change: Geothermal evidence from permafrost in the Alaskan arctic. Science 34: 689–696Google Scholar
  33. Law RM, Rayner PJ, Denning AS, Erickson D, Fung IY, Heimann M, Piper SC, Ramonet M, Taguchi S, Taylor JA, Trudinger CM & Watterson IG (1996)Variations in modeled atmospheric transport of carbon dioxide and the consequences for CO2 inversions. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 783–796Google Scholar
  34. Maier-Reimer E (1993) Geochemical cycles in an OGCM Part I: Preindustrial tracer distributions. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 7: 645–677Google Scholar
  35. Marland G, Boden TA, Griffin RC, Huang SF, Kanciruk P & Nelson TR (1989) Estimates of CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning and Cement Manufacturing, Based on the U.S. Bureau of Mines Cement Manufacturing Data. ORNL/CDIAC-25, NDP-030, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  36. Mazur P (1980) Limits to life at low temperature and at reduced water contents and water activities. Origins of Life 10: 137–159Google Scholar
  37. McGuire AD & Hobbie JE (1997) Global climate change and equilibrium responses of carbon storage in arctic and subarctic regions. In: Modeling the arctic system: A workshop report on the state of modeling in the Arctic System Science Program (pp 53–54). The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, Fairbanks, AK, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  38. McGuire AD, Melillo JM, Joyce LA, Kicklighter DW, Grace AL, Moore B III & Vörösmarty CJ (1992) Interactions between carbon and nitrogen dynamics in estimating net primary productivity for potential vegetation in North America. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 6: 101–124Google Scholar
  39. McGuire AD, Melillo JM, Kicklighter DW & Joyce LA (1995) Equilibrium responses of soil carbon to climate change: Empirical and process-based estimates. J. Biogeography 22: 785–796Google Scholar
  40. McGuire AD, Melillo JM, Kicklighter DW, Pan Y, Xiao X, Helfrich J, Moore B III, Vörösmarty CJ & Schloss AL (1997) Equilibrium responses of global net primary production and carbon storage to doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide: Sensitivity to changes in vegetation nitrogen concentration. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 11: 173–189Google Scholar
  41. Melillo JM, McGuire AD, Kicklighter DW, Moore B III, Vörösmarty CJ & Schloss AL (1993) Global change and terrestrial net primary production. Nature 363: 234–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Melillo JM, Kicklighter DW, McGuire AD, Peterjohn WT & Newkirk KM (1995) Global change and its effects on soil organic carbon stocks. In: Zepp RG & Sontagg Ch (Eds) Role of Nonliving Organic Matter in the Earth's Carbon Cycle (pp 175–189). John Wiley & SonsGoogle Scholar
  43. Nadelhoffer KJ, Giblin AE, Shaver GR & Linkins AE (1992). Microbial processes and plant nutrient availability in arctic soils. In: Chapin FS III et al. (Eds) Physiological Ecology of Arctic Plants: Implications for Climate Change (pp 281–300). Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Oechel WC, Hastings SJ, Vourlitis GL, Jenkins MA, Reichers G & Grulke N (1993) Recent changes in arctic tundra ecosystems from a carbon sink to a source. Nature 361: 520–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oechel WC, Vourlitis GL, Hastings SJ & Bochkarev SA (1995) Change in arctic CO2 flux over two decades: Effects of climate change at Barrow, Alaska. Ecological Applications 5: 846–855Google Scholar
  46. Oechel WC, Vourlitis GL & Hastings SJ (1997) Cold season CO2 emission from arctic soil. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 11: 163–172Google Scholar
  47. Parton WJ, Schimel DS, Cole CV & Ojima DS (1987) Analysis of factors controlling soil organic matter levels in Great Plains grasslands. Soil Science Soc. Am. J. 51: 1173–1179Google Scholar
  48. Parton WJ, Scurlock JMO, Ojima DS, Gilmanov TG, Scholes RJ, Schimel DS, Kirchner T, Menaut J-C, Seastedt T, Garcia Moya E, Kamnalrut A & Kinyamario JI (1993) Observations and modeling of biomass and soil organic matter dynamics for the grassland biome worldwide. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 7: 785–809Google Scholar
  49. Raich JW & Potter CS (1995) Global patterns of carbon dioxide emissions from soils. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 9: 23–36Google Scholar
  50. Raich JW, Rastetter EB, Melillo JM, Kicklighter DW, Steudler PA, Peterson BJ, Grace AL, Moore B III & Vörösmarty CJ (1991) Potential net primary productivity in South America: Application of a global model. Ecological Applications 1: 399–429Google Scholar
  51. Randerson JT, Thompson MV, Malmstrom MV, Field CB & Fung IY (1996) Substrate limitation for heterotrophs: Implications for models that estimate the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 585- 602Google Scholar
  52. Randerson JT, Thompson MV, Conway TJ, Fung IY & Field CB (1997) The contribution of terrestrial sources and sinks to trends in the seasonal cycle of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 11: 535–560Google Scholar
  53. Schimel DS (1995) Terrestrial ecosystems and the carbon cycle. Global Change Biology 1: 77–91Google Scholar
  54. Schimel JP & Clein JS (1996) Microbial response to freeze-thaw cycles in tundra and taiga soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28: 1061–1066Google Scholar
  55. Six KD & Maier-Reimer E (1995) Effects of plankton dynamics on seasonal carbon fluxes in an ocean general circulation model. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 559–583Google Scholar
  56. Thompson MV, Randerson JT, Malmstrom CM & Field CB (1996) Change in net primary production and heterotrophic respiration: How much is necessary to sustain the terrestrial carbon sink? Global Biogeochem. Cycles 10: 711–726Google Scholar
  57. Tian H, Melillo JM, Kicklighter DW & McGuire AD (1999) The sensitivity of terrestrial carbon storage to historical atmospheric CO2 and climate variability in the United States. Tellus. In pressGoogle Scholar
  58. Waelbroeck C (1993) Climate-soil processes in the presence of permafrost: A systems modelling approach. Ecological Modelling 69: 185–225Google Scholar
  59. Waelbroeck C & Louis JF (1995) Sensitivity analysis of a model of CO2 exchange in tundra ecosystems by the adjoint method. J. Geophys. Res. 100: 2801–2816Google Scholar
  60. Waelbroeck C, Monfray P, Oechel WC, Hastings & Vourlitis G (1997) The impact of permafrost thawing on the carbon dynamics of tundra. Geophys. Res. Lett. 24: 229–232Google Scholar
  61. Wittenberg U, Heimann M, Esser G, McGuire AD & Sauf W (1998) On the influence of biomass burning on the seasonal CO2 signal as observed at monitoring stations. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 12: 531–544Google Scholar
  62. Zimov SA, Zimova GM, Daviodov SP, Daviodova AI, Voropaev YV, Voropaeva ZV, Prosiannikov SF, Prosiannikova OV, Semiletova IV & Semiletov IP (1993) Winter biotic activity and production of CO2 in Siberian soils: A factor in the greenhouse effect. J. Geophys. Res. 98: 5017–5023Google Scholar
  63. Zimov SA, Davidov SP, Voropaev YV, Prosiannikov SF, Semiletov IP, Chapin MC & Chapin FS III (1996) Siberian CO2 efflux in winter as a CO2 source and cause of seasonality in atmospheric CO2. Climatic Change 33: 111–120Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.D. McGuire
    • 1
  • J.M. Melillo
    • 2
  • J.T. Randerson
    • 3
  • W.J. Parton
    • 4
  • M. Heimann
    • 5
  • R.A. Meier
    • 6
  • J.S. Clein
    • 6
  • D.W. Kicklighter
    • 2
  • W. Sauf
    • 5
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksU.S.A.
  2. 2.Marine Biological LaboratoryThe Ecosystems CenterWoods HoleU.S.A.
  3. 3.Center for Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyU.S.A.
  4. 4.Natural Resources Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsU.S.A.
  5. 5.Max-Planck-Institut für MeteorologieHamburgGermany
  6. 6.Institute of Arctic Biologyiversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations