Divergent predictions of carbon storage between two global land models: Attribution of the causes through traceability analysis

Rashid Rafique, Jianyang Xia, Oleksandra Hararuk, Ghassem R. Asrar, Guoyong Leng, Yingping Wang, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Representations of the terrestrial carbon cycle in land models are becoming increasingly complex. It is crucial to develop approaches for critical assessment of the complex model properties in order to understand key factors contributing to models' performance. In this study, we applied a traceability analysis which decomposes carbon cycle models into traceable components, for two global land models (CABLE and CLM-CASA') to diagnose the causes of their differences in simulating ecosystem carbon storage capacity. Driven with similar forcing data, CLM-CASA0 predicted ∼31% larger carbon storage capacity than CABLE. Since ecosystem carbon storage capacity is a product of net primary productivity (NPP) and ecosystem residence time (τE), the predicted difference in the storage capacity between the two models results from differences in either NPP or τE or both. Our analysis showed that CLM-CASA0 simulated 37% higher NPP than CABLE. On the other hand, τE, which was a function of the baseline carbon residence time (τE) and environmental effect on carbon residence time, was on average 11 years longer in CABLE than CLM-CASA0. This difference in τE was mainly caused by longer τE of woody biomass (23 vs. 14 years in CLM-CASA0), and higher proportion of NPP allocated to woody biomass (23 vs. 16 %). Differences in environmental effects on carbon residence times had smaller influences on differences in ecosystem carbon storage capacities compared to differences in NPP and τ'E. Overall, the traceability analysis showed that the major causes of different carbon storage estimations were found to be parameters setting related to carbon input and baseline carbon residence times between two models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-658
Number of pages10
JournalEarth System Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 29 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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