Simulated single-layer forest canopies delay Northern Hemisphere snowmelt

Todt, Markus; Rutter, Nick; Fletcher, Christopher G.; Wake, Leanne M.

Single-layer vegetation schemes in modern land surface models have been found to overestimate diurnal cycles in longwave radiation beneath forest canopies. This study introduces an empirical correction, based on forest-stand-scale simulations, which reduces diurnal cycles of sub-canopy longwave radiation. The correction is subsequently implemented in land-only simulations of the Community Land Model version 4.5 (CLM4.5) in order to assess the impact on snow cover. Nighttime underestimations of sub-canopy longwave radiation outweigh daytime overestimations, which leads to underestimated averages over the snow cover season. As a result, snow temperatures are underestimated and snowmelt is delayed in CLM4.5 across evergreen boreal forests. Comparison with global observations confirms this delay and its reduction by correction of sub-canopy longwave radiation. Increasing insolation and day length change the impact of overestimated diurnal cycles on daily average sub-canopy longwave radiation throughout the snowmelt season. Consequently, delay of snowmelt in land-only simulations is more substantial where snowmelt occurs early.

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Todt, Markus / Rutter, Nick / Fletcher, Christopher G. / et al: Simulated single-layer forest canopies delay Northern Hemisphere snowmelt. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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