Effects of spatial and temporal resolution on simulated feedbacks from polygonal tundra.
Abstract:Earth system land models typically resolve permafrost regions at spatial resolutions grossly larger than the scales of topographic variation. This observation leads to two critical questions: How much error is introduced by this lack of resolution, and what is the effect of this approximation on other coupled components of the Earth system, notably the energy balance and carbon cycle?
Here we use the Arctic Terrestrial Simulator (ATS) to run micro-topography resolving simulations of polygonal ground, driven by meteorological data from Barrow, AK, to address these questions. ATS couples surface and subsurface processes, including thermal hydrology, surface energy balance, and a snow model. Comparisons are made between one-dimensional “column model” simulations (similar to, for instance, CLM or other land models typically used in Earth System models) and higher-dimensional simulations which resolve micro-topography, allowing for distributed surface runoff, horizontal flow in the subsurface, and uneven snow distribution. Additionally, we drive models with meteorological data averaged over different time scales from daily to weekly moving windows. In each case, we compare fluxes important to the surface energy balance including albedo, latent and sensible heat fluxes, and land-to-atmosphere long-wave radiation.
Results indicate that spatial topography variation and temporal variability are important in several ways. Snow distribution greatly affects the surface energy balance, fundamentally changing the partitioning of incoming solar radiation between the subsurface and the atmosphere. This has significant effects on soil moisture and temperature, with implications for vegetation and decomposition. Resolving temporal variability is especially important in spring, when early warm days can alter the onset of snowmelt by days to weeks. We show that high-resolution simulations are valuable in evaluating current land models, especially in areas of polygonal ground. This work was supported by LANL Laboratory Directed Research and Development Project LDRD201200068DR and by the The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE Arctic) project. NGEE-Arctic is supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science. LA-UR-14-26227.