30 Jan 2023
 | 30 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

GPP and the predictability of CO2: more uncertainty in what we predict than how well we predict it

István Dunkl, Nicole Lovenduski, Alessio Collalti, Vivek K. Arora, Tatiana Ilyina, and Victor Brovkin

Abstract. The prediction of atmospheric CO2 concentrations is limited by the high interannual variability (IAV) of terrestrial gross primary productivity (GPP). However, there are large uncertainties in the drivers of GPP IAV among Earth system models (ESMs). Here, we evaluate the impact of these uncertainties on the predictability of atmospheric CO2 in six ESMs. We use regression analysis to determine the role of environmental drivers on (i) the patterns of GPP IAV, and (ii) the predictability of GPP. There are large uncertainties in the spatial distribution of GPP IAV. Although all ESMs agree on the high IAV in the tropics, several ESMs have unique hotspots of GPP IAV. The main driver of GPP IAV is temperature in the ESMs using the Community Land Model, and soil moisture in IPSL-CM6A-LR and MPI-ESM-LR, revealing underlying differences in the source of GPP IAV among ESMs. Between 13 % and 24 % of the GPP IAV is predictable one year ahead, with four out of six ESMs between 19 % and 24 %. Up to 32 % of the GPP IAV induced by soil moisture is predictable, while only 7 % to 13 % of the GPP IAV induced by radiation. The results show that while ESMs are fairly similar in their ability to predict themselves, their predicted contribution to the atmospheric CO2 variability originates from different regions and is caused by different drivers. A higher coherence in atmospheric CO2 predictability could be achieved by reducing uncertainties of GPP sensitivity to soil moisture, and by accurate observational products for GPP IAV.

István Dunkl et al.

Status: open (until 19 Apr 2023)

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István Dunkl et al.

István Dunkl et al.


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Short summary
The predictability of the atmospheric CO2 concentration is limited by the predictability of terrestrial gross primary productivity (GPP). Earth system models are similar in their capability to predict their own GPP. However, there are large mismatches in the spatial patterns and drivers of the GPP variability among the Earth system models. The predictability of atmospheric CO2 is limited by the response of GPP to water availability in semi-arid ecosystems.