Different response of surface temperature and air temperature to deforestation in climate models
When quantifying temperature changes induced by deforestation (e.g., cooling in high latitudes, warming in low latitudes), satellite data, in situ observations, and climate models differ concerning the height at which the temperature is typically measured/simulated. In this study the effects of deforestation on surface temperature, near-surface air temperature, and lower atmospheric temperature are compared by analyzing the biogeophysical temperature effects of large-scale deforestation in the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model (MPI-ESM) separately for local effects (which are only apparent at the location of deforestation) and nonlocal effects (which are also apparent elsewhere). While the nonlocal effects (cooling in most regions) influence the temperature of the surface and lowest atmospheric layer equally, the local effects (warming in the tropics but a cooling in the higher latitudes) mainly affect the temperature of the surface. In agreement with observation-based studies, the local effects on surface and near-surface air temperature respond differently in the MPI-ESM, both concerning the magnitude of local temperature changes and the latitude at which the local deforestation effects turn from a cooling to a warming (at 45–55∘ N for surface temperature and around 35∘ N for near-surface air temperature). Subsequently, our single-model results are compared to model data from multiple climate models from the Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). This inter-model comparison shows that in the northern midlatitudes, both concerning the summer warming and winter cooling, near-surface air temperature is affected by the local effects only about half as strongly as surface temperature. This study shows that the choice of temperature variable has a considerable effect on the observed and simulated temperature change. Studies about the biogeophysical effects of deforestation must carefully choose which temperature to consider.