Linkages Between Terrestrial Carbon Uptake and Interannual Climate Variability over the Texas-northern Mexico High Plains

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:10 PM
Nick Parazoo, University of California Los Angeles, JIFRESSE, Los Angeles, CA, United States, Elizabeth A Barnes, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, John Worden, JPL / Caltech, Pasadena, CA, United States, Anna B Harper, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4, United Kingdom, Kevin W Bowman, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States and Christian Frankenberg, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
The Texas-northern Mexico high plains experienced record drought conditions in 2011 during strong negative phases of ENSO and the NAO. Given predictions of increased frequency and severity of drought under projected climate change [e.g., Reichstein et al., 2013] and recent findings of CO2 growth rate sensitivity to interannual variability of carbon uptake in semi-arid ecosystems [Poulter et al., 2014], we investigate the response of carbon uptake in the Texas high plains to interannual climate variability with the goal of improved mechanistic understanding of climate-carbon cycle links. Specifically, we examine (1) observed tendencies in regional scale carbon uptake and soil moisture from 2010 to 2011 using satellite observations of gross primary production (GPP) (from plant fluorescence) from GOSAT and soil moisture from SMOS, and (2) the interannual relationship between GPP and ENSO & NAO variability using terrestrial biosphere simulations from 1950-2012.

Observations reveal widespread decline of GPP in 2011 (0.42 +/- 0.04 Pg C yr-1) correlated with negative soil moisture tendencies (r = 0.85 +/- 0.21) which leads to corresponding declines in net carbon uptake and transpiration (according to model simulations). Further examination of model results over the period 1950-2012 indicates that negative GPP anomalies are linked systematically to winter and spring precipitation deficits associated with overlapping negative phases of winter NAO and ENSO, with increasing magnitude of negative anomalies in strong La Niña years. Furthermore, the strongest decline of GPP, carbon uptake, and transpiration on record occurred during the 2011 drought and were associated with extreme negative phases of ENSO and NAO, with 2011 being the only year since 1950 that both indices exceeded 1 σ standard deviation.