Sensitivity of the regional European boreal climate to changes in surface properties resulting from structural vegetation perturbations
Abstract. Amplified warming at high latitudes over the past few decades has led to changes in the boreal and Arctic climate system such as structural changes in high-latitude ecosystems and soil moisture properties. These changes trigger land–atmosphere feedbacks through altered energy partitioning in response to changes in albedo and surface water fluxes. Local-scale changes in the Arctic and boreal zones may propagate to affect large-scale climatic features. In this study, MODIS land surface data are used with the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF V3.5.1) and Noah land surface model (LSM), in a series of experiments to investigate the sensitivity of the overlying atmosphere to perturbations in the structural vegetation in the northern European boreal ecosystem. Emphasis is placed on surface energy partitioning and near-surface atmospheric variables, and their response to observed and anticipated land cover changes. We find that perturbations simulating northward migration of evergreen needleleaf forest into tundra regions cause an increase in latent rather than sensible heat fluxes during the summer season. Shrub expansion in tundra areas has only small effects on surface fluxes. Perturbations simulating the northward migration of mixed forest across the present southern border of the boreal forest, have largely opposite effects on the summer latent heat flux, i.e., they lead to a decrease and act to moderate the overall mean regional effects of structural vegetation changes on the near-surface atmosphere.