Modeling the Impacts of Long-Term Warming Trends on Gross Primary Productivity Across North America

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Zelalem A Mekonnen and Robert F Grant, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
There is evidence of warming over recent decades in most regions of North America (NA) that affects ecosystem productivity and the past decade has been the warmest since instrumental records of global surface temperatures began. In this study, we examined the spatial and temporal variability and trends of warming across NA using climate data from the North America Regional Reanalysis (NARR) from 1979 to 2010 with a 3-hourly time-step and 0.250 x 0.250 spatial resolution as part of the Multi-scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP). A comprehensive mathematical process model, ecosys was used to simulate impacts of this variability in warming on gross primary productivity (GPP). In a test of model results, annual GPP modeled for pixels which corresponded to the locations of 25 eddy covariance towers correlated well (R2=0.76) with annual GPP derived from the flux towers in 2005. At the continental scale long-term (2000 - 2010) annual average modeled GPP for NA correlated well (geographically weighed regression R2 = 0.8) with MODIS GPP, demonstrating close similarities in spatial patterns. Results from the NARR indicated that most areas of NA, particularly high latitude regions, have experienced warming but changes in precipitation vary spatially over the last three decades. GPP modeled in most areas with lower mean annual air temperature (Ta), such as those in boreal climate zones, increased due to early spring and late autumn warming observed in NARR. However modeled GPP declined in most southwestern regions of NA, due to water stress from rising Ta and declining precipitation. Overall, GPP modeled across NA had a positive trend of +0.025 P g C yr-1 with a range of -1.16 to 0.87 P g C yr-1 from the long-term mean. Interannual variability of GPP was the greatest in southwest of US and part of the Great Plains, which could be as a result of frequent El Niño–Southern Oscillation' (ENSO) events that led to major droughts.