Evaluation of terrestrial carbon cycle models through simulations of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2: First results of a model intercomparison study

M. Heimann, G. Esser, A. Haxeltine, J. Kaduk, D. W. Kicklighter, W. Knorr, G. H. Kohlmaier, A. D. McGuire, J. Melillo, B. Moore, R. D. Otto, I. C. Prentice, W. Sauf, A. Schloss, S. Sitch, U. Wittenberg, G. Würth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Results of an intercomparison among terrestrial biogeochemical models (TBMs) are reported, in which one diagnostic and five prognostic models have been run with the same long-term climate forcing. Monthly fields of net ecosystem production (NEP), which is the difference between net primary production (NPP) and heterotrophic respiration RH, at 0.5° resolution have been generated for the terrestrial biosphere. The monthly estimates of NEP in conjunction with seasonal CO2 flux fields generated by the seasonal Hamburg Model of the Oceanic Carbon Cycle (HAMOCC3) and fossil fuel source fields were subsequently coupled to the three-dimensional atmospheric tracer transport model TM2 forced by observed winds. The resulting simulated seasonal signal of the atmospheric CO2 concentration extracted at the grid cells corresponding to the locations of 27 background monitoring stations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory network is compared with measurements from these sites. The Simple Diagnostic Biosphere Model (SDBM1), which is tuned to the atmospheric CO2 concentration at five monitoring stations in the northern hemisphere, successfully reproduced the seasonal signal of CO2 at the other monitoring stations. The SDBM1 simulations confirm that the north-south gradient in the amplitude of the atmospheric CO2 signal results from the greater northern hemisphere land area and the more pronounced seasonality of radiation and temperature in higher latitudes. In southern latitudes, ocean-atmosphere gas exchange plays an important role in determining the seasonal signal of CO2. Most of the five prognostic models (i.e., models driven by climatic inputs) included in the intercomparison predict in the northern hemisphere a reasonably accurate seasonal cycle in terms of amplitude and, to some extent, also with respect to phase. In the tropics, however, the prognostic models generally tend to overpredict the net seasonal exchanges and stronger seasonal cycles than indicated by the diagnostic model and by observations. The differences from the observed seasonal signal of CO2 may be caused by shortcomings in the phenology algorithms of the prognostic models or by not properly considering the effects of land use and vegetation fires on CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere and terrestrial biosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of terrestrial carbon cycle models through simulations of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2: First results of a model intercomparison study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this