Investigating the spread of surface albedo in snow covered forests in CMIP5 models

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Libo Wang1, Jason N Cole1, Paul A Bartlett2, Diana L Verseghy3, Vivek Arora4, Chris Derksen5, Ross Brown6, Knut von Salzen7 and CRD, EC , (1)Environment Canada Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, (2)Environment Canada, Toronto, ON, Canada, (3)Environment Canada, Climate Processes Section, Toronto, ON, Canada, (4)Canadian Climate Center, Victoria, BC, Canada, (5)Environment Canada Toronto, Climate Research Division, Toronto, ON, Canada, (6)Environment Canada @ OURANOS Inc., Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada, (7)CCCma, Environment Canada, Victoria, BC, Canada
A persistent spread in winter albedo has been found in Phase 3 and Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) simulations, and is particularly pronounced in boreal forest regions. The primary goal of this study is to investigate the role of leaf area index (LAI) specification in the large spread in winter albedo simulated by the CMIP5 models. Simulated LAI and surface albedo from the CMIP5 models are compared with satellite observations. The results show that improper plant functional type specification and erroneous LAI parameterization in some models can explain an observed positive bias in winter albedo over boreal forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere. This contributes to a large intermodel spread in simulated surface albedo in the presence of snow over these regions and is largely responsible for uncertainties in simulated snow-albedo feedback strength. The errors are largest (+20-40 %) in models with large underestimation of LAI and are typically within ±15% when simulated LAI is within the observed range. This is confirmed by sensitivity tests with the Canadian Atmospheric Global Climate Model coupled with the Canadian Land Surface Scheme version 3.6.