Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Research article
07 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 07 Aug 2012

Modifying a dynamic global vegetation model for simulating large spatial scale land surface water balances

G. Tang and P. J. Bartlein

Abstract. Satellite-based data, such as vegetation type and fractional vegetation cover, are widely used in hydrologic models to prescribe the vegetation state in a study region. Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVM) simulate land surface hydrology. Incorporation of satellite-based data into a DGVM may enhance a model's ability to simulate land surface hydrology by reducing the task of model parameterization and providing distributed information on land characteristics. The objectives of this study are to (i) modify a DGVM for simulating land surface water balances; (ii) evaluate the modified model in simulating actual evapotranspiration (ET), soil moisture, and surface runoff at regional or watershed scales; and (iii) gain insight into the ability of both the original and modified model to simulate large spatial scale land surface hydrology. To achieve these objectives, we introduce the "LPJ-hydrology" (LH) model which incorporates satellite-based data into the Lund-Potsdam-Jena (LPJ) DGVM. To evaluate the model we ran LH using historical (1981–2006) climate data and satellite-based land covers at 2.5 arc-min grid cells for the conterminous US and for the entire world using coarser climate and land cover data. We evaluated the simulated ET, soil moisture, and surface runoff using a set of observed or simulated data at different spatial scales. Our results demonstrate that spatial patterns of LH-simulated annual ET and surface runoff are in accordance with previously published data for the US; LH-modeled monthly stream flow for 12 major rivers in the US was consistent with observed values respectively during the years 1981–2006 (R2 > 0.46, p < 0.01; Nash-Sutcliffe Coefficient > 0.52). The modeled mean annual discharges for 10 major rivers worldwide also agreed well (differences < 15%) with observed values for these rivers. Compared to a degree-day method for snowmelt computation, the addition of the solar radiation effect on snowmelt enabled LH to better simulate monthly stream flow in winter and early spring for rivers located at mid-to-high latitudes. In addition, LH-modeled monthly soil moisture for the state of Illinois (US) agreed well (R2 = 0.79, p < 0.01) with observed data for the years 1984–2001. Overall, this study justifies both the feasibility of incorporating satellite-based land covers into a DGVM and the reliability of LH to simulate land-surface water balances. To better estimate surface/river runoff at mid-to-high latitudes, we recommended that LPJ-DGVM considers the effects of solar radiation on snowmelt.