Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 10, 1721–1737, 2016
The Cryosphere, 10, 1721–1737, 2016

Research article 11 Aug 2016

Research article | 11 Aug 2016

Evaluation of air–soil temperature relationships simulated by land surface models during winter across the permafrost region

Wenli Wang1, Annette Rinke1,2, John C. Moore1, Duoying Ji1, Xuefeng Cui3, Shushi Peng4,17,18, David M. Lawrence5, A. David McGuire6, Eleanor J. Burke7, Xiaodong Chen21, Bertrand Decharme9, Charles Koven10, Andrew MacDougall11, Kazuyuki Saito12,15, Wenxin Zhang13,19, Ramdane Alkama9,16, Theodore J. Bohn8, Philippe Ciais18, Christine Delire9, Isabelle Gouttevin4, Tomohiro Hajima12, Gerhard Krinner4,17, Dennis P. Lettenmaier8, Paul A. Miller13, Benjamin Smith13, Tetsuo Sueyoshi14, and Artem B. Sherstiukov20 Wenli Wang et al.
  • 1College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Potsdam, Germany
  • 3School of System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 4The Laboratory of Glaciology, French National Center for Scientific Research, Grenoble, France
  • 5National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, USA
  • 6US Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 7Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
  • 8School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
  • 9Groupe d'étude de l'Atmosphère Météorologique, Unité mixte de recherche CNRS/Meteo-France, Toulouse cedex, France
  • 10Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 11School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
  • 12Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokohama, Japan
  • 13Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 14National Institute of Polar Research, Tachikawa, Japan
  • 15University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA
  • 16L'Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), Ispra, Italy
  • 17Université Grenoble Alpes, LGGE, Grenoble, France
  • 18Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, French National Center for Scientific Research, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Saclay, France
  • 19Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 20All-Russian Research Institute of Hydrometeorological Information – World Data Centre, Obninsk, Russia
  • 21Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Abstract. A realistic simulation of snow cover and its thermal properties are important for accurate modelling of permafrost. We analyse simulated relationships between air and near-surface (20 cm) soil temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere permafrost region during winter, with a particular focus on snow insulation effects in nine land surface models, and compare them with observations from 268 Russian stations. There are large cross-model differences in the simulated differences between near-surface soil and air temperatures (ΔT; 3 to 14 °C), in the sensitivity of soil-to-air temperature (0.13 to 0.96 °C °C−1), and in the relationship between ΔT and snow depth. The observed relationship between ΔT and snow depth can be used as a metric to evaluate the effects of each model's representation of snow insulation, hence guide improvements to the model's conceptual structure and process parameterisations. Models with better performance apply multilayer snow schemes and consider complex snow processes. Some models show poor performance in representing snow insulation due to underestimation of snow depth and/or overestimation of snow conductivity. Generally, models identified as most acceptable with respect to snow insulation simulate reasonable areas of near-surface permafrost (13.19 to 15.77 million km2). However, there is not a simple relationship between the sophistication of the snow insulation in the acceptable models and the simulated area of Northern Hemisphere near-surface permafrost, because several other factors, such as soil depth used in the models, the treatment of soil organic matter content, hydrology and vegetation cover, also affect the simulated permafrost distribution.

Short summary
The winter snow insulation is a key process for air–soil temperature coupling and is relevant for permafrost simulations. Differences in simulated air–soil temperature relationships and their modulation by climate conditions are found to be related to the snow model physics. Generally, models with better performance apply multilayer snow schemes.