Limitations of WRF land surface models for simulating land use and land cover change in Sub-Saharan Africa and development of an improved model (CLM-AF v. 1.0)

Glotfelty, Timothy; Ramírez-Mejía, Diana; Bowden, Jared; Ghilardi, Adrian; West, J. Jason

Land use and land cover change (LULCC) impacts local and regional climates through various biogeophysical processes. Accurate representation of land surface parameters in land surface models (LSMs) is essential to accurately predict these LULCC-induced climate signals. In this work, we test the applicability of the default Noah, Noah-MP, and Community Land Model (CLM) LSMs in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over Sub-Saharan Africa. We find that the default WRF LSMs do not accurately represent surface albedo, leaf area index, and surface roughness in this region due to various flawed assumptions, including the treatment of the MODIS woody savanna land use and land cover (LULC) category as closed shrubland. Consequently, we developed a WRF CLM version with more accurate African land surface parameters (CLM-AF), designed such that it can be used to evaluate the influence of LULCC. We evaluate meteorological performance for the default LSMs and CLM-AF against observational datasets, gridded products, and satellite estimates. Further, we conduct LULCC experiments with each LSM to determine if differences in land surface parameters impact the LULCC-induced climate responses. Despite clear deficiencies in surface parameters, all LSMs reasonably capture the spatial pattern and magnitude of near-surface temperature and precipitation. However, in the LULCC experiments, inaccuracies in the default LSMs result in illogical localized temperature and precipitation changes. Differences in thermal changes between Noah-MP and CLM-AF indicate that the temperature impacts from LULCC are dependent on the sensitivity of evapotranspiration to LULCC in Sub-Saharan Africa. Errors in land surface parameters indicate that the default WRF LSMs considered are not suitable for LULCC experiments in tropical or Southern Hemisphere regions and that proficient meteorological model performance can mask these issues. We find CLM-AF to be suitable for use in Sub-Saharan Africa LULCC studies, but more work is needed by the WRF community to improve its applicability to other tropical and Southern Hemisphere climates.

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Glotfelty, Timothy / Ramírez-Mejía, Diana / Bowden, Jared / et al: Limitations of WRF land surface models for simulating land use and land cover change in Sub-Saharan Africa and development of an improved model (CLM-AF v. 1.0). 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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