Sensitivity of ecosystem models to the spatial resolution of the NCAR Community Climate Model CCM2

C. Ciret, A. Henderson-Sellers

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    10 Citations (Scopus)


    This study evaluates the sensitivity of ecosystem models to changes in the horizontal resolution of version 2 of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research Community Climate Model (CCM2). A previous study has shown that the distributions of natural ecosystems predicted by vegetation models using coarse resolution present-day climate simulations are poorly simulated. It is usually assumed that increasing the spatial resolution of general circulation models (GCMs) will improve the simulation of climate, and hence will increase our level of confidence in the use of GCM output for impacts studies. The principal goals of this study is to investigate this hypothesis and to identify which biomes are more affected by the changes in spatial resolution of the forcing climate. The ecosystem models used are the BIOME-1 model and a version of the Holdridge scheme. The climate simulations come from a set of experiments in which CCM2 was run with increasing horizontal resolutions. The biome distributions predicted using CCM2 climates are compared against biome distributions predicted using observed climate datasets. Results show that increasing the resolution of CCM2 produces a significant improvement of the global-scale vegetation prediction, indicating that a higher level of confidence can be vested in the global-scale prediction of natural ecosystems using medium and high resolution GCMs. However, not all biomes are equally affected by the increased spatial resolution, and although certain biome distributions are improved (e.g. hot desert, tropical seasonal forest), others remain globally poorly predicted even at high resolution (e.g. grasses and xerophytic woods. In addition, these results show that some climatic biased are enhanced with increasing resolution (e.g. in mountain ranges), resulting in the inadequate prediction of biomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)409-429
    Number of pages21
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998


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