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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Faculty Publications

The Department of Earth System Science (ESS) focuses on how the atmosphere, land, and oceans interact as a system, and how the Earth will change over a human lifetime.

Cover page of Identification of key parameters controlling demographically structured vegetation dynamics in a land surface model: CLM4.5(FATES)

Identification of key parameters controlling demographically structured vegetation dynamics in a land surface model: CLM4.5(FATES)


Abstract. Vegetation plays an important role in regulating global carbon cycles and is a key component of the Earth system models (ESMs) that aim to project Earth's future climate. In the last decade, the vegetation component within ESMs has witnessed great progress from simple “big-leaf” approaches to demographically structured approaches, which have a better representation of plant size, canopy structure, and disturbances. These demographically structured vegetation models typically have a large number of input parameters, and sensitivity analysis is needed to quantify the impact of each parameter on the model outputs for a better understanding of model behavior. In this study, we conducted a comprehensive sensitivity analysis to diagnose the Community Land Model coupled to the Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Simulator, or CLM4.5(FATES). Specifically, we quantified the first- and second-order sensitivities of the model parameters to outputs that represent simulated growth and mortality as well as carbon fluxes and stocks for a tropical site with an extent of 1×1. While the photosynthetic capacity parameter (Vc,max25) is found to be important for simulated carbon stocks and fluxes, we also show the importance of carbon storage and allometry parameters, which determine survival and growth strategies within the model. The parameter sensitivity changes with different sizes of trees and climate conditions. The results of this study highlight the importance of understanding the dynamics of the next generation of demographically enabled vegetation models within ESMs to improve model parameterization and structure for better model fidelity.

Cover page of Intermediate-scale horizontal isoprene concentrations in the near-canopy forest atmosphere and implications for emission heterogeneity.

Intermediate-scale horizontal isoprene concentrations in the near-canopy forest atmosphere and implications for emission heterogeneity.


The emissions, deposition, and chemistry of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are thought to be influenced by underlying landscape heterogeneity at intermediate horizontal scales of several hundred meters across different forest subtypes within a tropical forest. Quantitative observations and scientific understanding at these scales, however, remain lacking, in large part due to a historical absence of canopy access and suitable observational approaches. Herein, horizontal heterogeneity in VOC concentrations in the near-canopy atmosphere was examined by sampling from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flown horizontally several hundred meters over the plateau and slope forests in central Amazonia during the morning and early afternoon periods of the wet season of 2018. Unlike terpene concentrations, the isoprene concentrations in the near-canopy atmosphere over the plateau forest were 60% greater than those over the slope forest. A gradient transport model constrained by the data suggests that isoprene emissions differed by 220 to 330% from these forest subtypes, which is in contrast to a 0% difference implemented in most present-day biosphere emissions models (i.e., homogeneous emissions). Quantifying VOC concentrations, emissions, and other processes at intermediate horizontal scales is essential for understanding the ecological and Earth system roles of VOCs and representing them in climate and air quality models.

Cover page of Biogeochemical controls of surface ocean phosphate.

Biogeochemical controls of surface ocean phosphate.


Surface ocean phosphate is commonly below the standard analytical detection limits, leading to an incomplete picture of the global variation and biogeochemical role of phosphate. A global compilation of phosphate measured using high-sensitivity methods revealed several previously unrecognized low-phosphate areas and clear regional differences. Both observational climatologies and Earth system models (ESMs) systematically overestimated surface phosphate. Furthermore, ESMs misrepresented the relationships between phosphate, phytoplankton biomass, and primary productivity. Atmospheric iron input and nitrogen fixation are known important controls on surface phosphate, but model simulations showed that differences in the iron-to-macronutrient ratio in the vertical nutrient supply and surface lateral transport are additional drivers of phosphate concentrations. Our study demonstrates the importance of accurately quantifying nutrients for understanding the regulation of ocean ecosystems and biogeochemistry now and under future climate conditions.

Cover page of Direct retrieval of isoprene from satellite-based infrared measurements.

Direct retrieval of isoprene from satellite-based infrared measurements.


Isoprene is the atmosphere's most important non-methane organic compound, with key impacts on atmospheric oxidation, ozone, and organic aerosols. In-situ isoprene measurements are sparse, and satellite-based constraints have employed an indirect approach using its oxidation product formaldehyde, which is affected by non-isoprene sources plus uncertainty and spatial smearing in the isoprene-formaldehyde relationship. Direct global isoprene measurements are therefore needed to better understand its sources, sinks, and atmospheric impacts. Here we show that the isoprene spectral signatures are detectable from space using the satellite-borne Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), develop a full-physics retrieval methodology for quantifying isoprene abundances from these spectral features, and apply the algorithm to CrIS measurements over Amazonia. The results are consistent with model output and in-situ data, and establish the feasibility of direct global space-based isoprene measurements. Finally, we demonstrate the potential for combining space-based measurements of isoprene and formaldehyde to constrain atmospheric oxidation over isoprene source regions.

Cover page of Impacts of climate change on future air quality and human health in China.

Impacts of climate change on future air quality and human health in China.


In recent years, air pollution has caused more than 1 million deaths per year in China, making it a major focus of public health efforts. However, future climate change may exacerbate such human health impacts by increasing the frequency and duration of weather conditions that enhance air pollution exposure. Here, we use a combination of climate, air quality, and epidemiological models to assess future air pollution deaths in a changing climate under Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5). We find that, assuming pollution emissions and population are held constant at current levels, climate change would adversely affect future air quality for >85% of China's population (∼55% of land area) by the middle of the century, and would increase by 3% and 4% the population-weighted average concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone, respectively. As a result, we estimate an additional 12,100 and 8,900 Chinese (95% confidence interval: 10,300 to 13,800 and 2,300 to 14,700, respectively) will die per year from PM2.5 and ozone exposure, respectively. The important underlying climate mechanisms are changes in extreme conditions such as atmospheric stagnation and heat waves (contributing 39% and 6%, respectively, to the increase in mortality). Additionally, greater vulnerability of China's aging population will further increase the estimated deaths from PM2.5 and ozone in 2050 by factors of 1 and 3, respectively. Our results indicate that climate change and more intense extremes are likely to increase the risk of severe pollution events in China. Managing air quality in China in a changing climate will thus become more challenging.

Cover page of Improving Representation of Deforestation Effects on Evapotranspiration in the E3SM Land Model

Improving Representation of Deforestation Effects on Evapotranspiration in the E3SM Land Model


© 2019. The Authors. Evapotranspiration (ET) plays an important role in land-atmosphere coupling of energy, water, and carbon cycles. Following deforestation, ET is typically observed to decrease substantially as a consequence of decreases in leaf area and roots and increases in runoff. Changes in ET (latent heat flux) revise the surface energy and water budgets, which further affects large-scale atmospheric dynamics and feeds back positively or negatively to long-term forest sustainability. In this study, we used observations from a recent synthesis of 29 pairs of adjacent intact and deforested FLUXNET sites to improve model parameterization of stomatal characteristics, photosynthesis, and soil water dynamics in version 1 of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) Land Model (ELMv1). We found that default ELMv1 predicts an increase in ET after deforestation, likely leading to incorrect estimates of the effects of deforestation on land-atmosphere coupling. The calibrated model accurately represented the FLUXNET observed deforestation effects on ET. Importantly, the search for global optimal parameters converged at values consistent with recent observational syntheses, confirming the reliability of the calibrated physical parameters. Applying this improved model parameterization to the globe scale reduced the bias of annual ET simulation by up to ~600 mm/year. Analysis on the roles of parameters suggested that future model development to improve ET simulation should focus on stomatal resistance and soil water-related parameterizations. Finally, our predicted differences in seasonal ET changes from deforestation are large enough to substantially affect land-atmosphere coupling and should be considered in such studies.