16 Feb 2023
 | 16 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

The biogeophysical effects of idealized land cover and land management changes in Earth System Models

Steven Johan De Hertog, Felix Havermann, Inne Vanderkelen, Suqi Guo, Fei Luo, Iris Manola, Dim Coumou, Edouard Léopold Davin, Gregory Duveiller, Quentin Lejeune, Julia Pongratz, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Sonia Isabelle Seneviratne, and Wim Thiery

Abstract. Land cover and land management change (LCLMC) has been highlighted for its critical role in mitigation scenarios, both in terms of global mitigation and local adaptation. Yet, the climate effect of individual LCLMC options, their dependence on the background climate and the local vs. non-local responses are still poorly understood across different Earth System Models (ESMs). Here we simulate the climatic effects of LCLMC using three state-of-the-art ESMs, including the Community Earth System Model (CESM), the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology Earth System Model (MPI-ESM) and the European Consortium Earth System Model (EC-EARTH). We assess the LCLMC effects using four idealized experiments: (i) a fully afforested world, (ii) a world fully covered by cropland, (ii) a fully afforested world with extensive wood harvesting, and (iv) a full cropland world with extensive irrigation. In these idealized sensitivity experiments, performed under present-day climate conditions, the effects of the different LCLMC strategies represent an upper bound for the potential of global mitigation and local adaptation. To disentangle the local and non-local effects from the LCLMC, a checkerboard-like LCLMC perturbation, i.e., alternating grid boxes with and without LCLMC, is applied. The local effects of deforestation on surface temperature are largely consistent across the ESMs and the observations, with a cooling in boreal latitudes and a warming in the tropics. However, the energy balance components driving the change in surface temperature show less consistency across the ESMs and the observations. Additionally, some biases exist in specific ESMs, such as a strong albedo response in CESM mid-latitudes and a soil thawing driven warming in boreal latitudes in EC-EARTH. The non-local effects on surface temperature are broadly consistent across ESMs for afforestation, though larger model uncertainty exists for cropland expansion. Irrigation clearly induces a cooling effect, however; the ESMs disagree whether these are mainly local or non-local effects. Wood harvesting is found to have no discernible biogeophysical effects on climate. Our results overall underline the potential of ensemble simulations to inform decision making regarding future climate consequences of land-based mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Steven Johan De Hertog et al.

Status: open (until 18 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-253', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 Feb 2023 reply
  • AC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-253', Steven De Hertog, 27 Feb 2023 reply

Steven Johan De Hertog et al.

Steven Johan De Hertog et al.


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Short summary
Land cover and land management changes are important strategies for future land-based mitigation. We investigate the climate effects of cropland expansion, afforestation, irrigation, and wood harvesting using three Earth system models. Results show that these have important implications for surface temperature where the land cover and/or management change occurs and in remote areas. Idealized afforestation causes global warming, which might offset the cooling effect from enhanced carbon uptake.