Articles | Volume 16, issue 3
Research article
28 Mar 2012
Research article |  | 28 Mar 2012

Inter-comparison of two land-surface models applied at different scales and their feedbacks while coupled with a regional climate model

F. Zabel, W. Mauser, T. Marke, A. Pfeiffer, G. Zängl, and C. Wastl

Abstract. Downstream models are often used in order to study regional impacts of climate and climate change on the land surface. For this purpose, they are usually driven offline (i.e., 1-way) with results from regional climate models (RCMs). However, the offline approach does not allow for feedbacks between these models. Thereby, the land surface of the downstream model is usually completely different to the land surface which is used within the RCM. Thus, this study aims at investigating the inconsistencies that arise when driving a downstream model offline instead of interactively coupled with the RCM, due to different feedbacks from the use of different land surface models (LSM). Therefore, two physically based LSMs which developed from different disciplinary backgrounds are compared in our study: while the NOAH-LSM was developed for the use within RCMs, PROMET was originally developed to answer hydrological questions on the local to regional scale. Thereby, the models use different physical formulations on different spatial scales and different parameterizations of the same land surface processes that lead to inconsistencies when driving PROMET offline with RCM output. Processes that contribute to these inconsistencies are, as described in this study, net radiation due to land use related albedo and emissivity differences, the redistribution of this net radiation over sensible and latent heat, for example, due to different assumptions about land use impermeability or soil hydraulic reasons caused by different plant and soil parameterizations. As a result, simulated evapotranspiration, e.g., shows considerable differences of max. 280 mm yr−1. For a full interactive coupling (i.e., 2-way) between PROMET and the atmospheric part of the RCM, PROMET returns the land surface energy fluxes to the RCM and, thus, provides the lower boundary conditions for the RCM subsequently. Accordingly, the RCM responses to the replacement of the LSM with overall increased annual mean near surface air temperature (+1 K) and less annual precipitation (−56 mm) with different spatial and temporal behaviour. Finally, feedbacks can set up positive and negative effects on simulated evapotranspiration, resulting in a decrease of evapotranspiration South of the Alps a moderate increase North of the Alps. The inconsistencies are quantified and account for up to 30% from July to Semptember when focused to an area around Milan, Italy.