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Terrestrial carbon sink observed from space: variation of growth rates and seasonal cycle amplitudes in response to interannual surface temperature variability

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Author(s): O. Schneising | M. Reuter | M. Buchwitz | J. Heymann | H. Bovensmann | J. P. Burrows

Journal: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
ISSN 1680-7367

Volume: 13;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 22733;
Date: 2013;
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ABSTRACT
The terrestrial biosphere is currently acting as a net carbon sink on the global scale exhibiting significant interannual variability in strength. To reliably predict the future strength of the land sink and its role in atmospheric CO2 growth the underlying processes and their response to a changing climate need to be well understood. In particular, better knowledge of the impact of key climate variables like temperature or precipitation on the biospheric carbon reservoir is essential. It is demonstrated using nearly a decade of SCIAMACHY nadir measurements that years with higher temperatures during the growing season can be robustly associated with larger growth rates in atmospheric CO2 and smaller seasonal cycle amplitudes for northern mid-latitudes. We find linear relationships between warming and CO2 growth as well as seasonal cycle amplitude at the 98% significance level. This suggests that the terrestrial carbon sink is less efficient at higher temperatures, which might lead to future sink saturation via a positive carbon-climate feedback. Quantitatively, the covariation between the annual CO2 growth rates derived from SCIAMACHY data and warm season surface temperature anomaly amounts to 1.25±0.32 ppm yr−1 K−1 for the Northern Hemisphere where the bulk of the terrestrial carbon sink is located. In comparison, the relation is less pronounced in the Southern Hemisphere. The covariation of the seasonal cycle amplitudes derived from satellite and temperature anomaly is −1.30±0.31 ppm K−1 for the north temperate zone. These estimates are consistent with those from the CarbonTracker data assimilated CO2 data product indicating that the temperature dependence of the model surface fluxes is realistic.
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