Influence of cloud optical thickness on surface diffuse light and carbon uptake in forests and croplands

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Susan J Cheng, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, EEB, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, Allison L Steiner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States and Knute J Nadelhoffer, Univ of Mich- Eco & Evol Bio, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
Accurately modeling atmospheric CO2 removal by terrestrial ecosystems requires an understanding of how atmospheric conditions change the rate of photosynthesis across major vegetation types. Diffuse light, which is created from interactions between incident solar radiation and atmospheric aerosols and clouds, has been postulated to increase carbon uptake in terrestrial ecosystems. To determine how cloud conditions affect carbon uptake through its influence on diffuse light, we quantify the relationship between cloud optical thickness, which indicates surface light attenuation by clouds, and surface diffuse light. We then examine the relationship between cloud optical thickness and gross primary productivity (GPP) to determine whether cloud properties could modulate GPP in temperate ecosystems. Surface diffuse light and GPP data are obtained from publically available Ameriflux data (Mead Crop sites, University of Michigan Biological Station, Morgan Monroe, and Howland Forest) and cloud optical thickness data over the Ameriflux sites are retrieved from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spetroradiometer. We compare the response of GPP to cloud optical thickness between croplands and forests, as well as within ecosystem types to determine ecosystem-specific responses and the role of plant community composition on ecosystem-level GPP under varying cloud conditions. By linking atmospheric cloud properties to surface light conditions and ecosystem carbon fluxes, we refine understanding of land-atmosphere carbon cycling and how changes in atmospheric cloud conditions may influence the future of the land carbon sink.