Using satellite data to improve the leaf phenology of a global terrestrial biosphere model
Abstract. Correct representation of seasonal leaf dynamics is crucial for terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs), but many such models cannot accurately reproduce observations of leaf onset and senescence. Here we optimised the phenology-related parameters of the ORCHIDEE TBM using satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index data (MODIS NDVI v5) that are linearly related to the model fAPAR. We found the misfit between the observations and the model decreased after optimisation for all boreal and temperate deciduous plant functional types, primarily due to an earlier onset of leaf senescence. The model bias was only partially reduced for tropical deciduous trees and no improvement was seen for natural C4 grasses. Spatial validation demonstrated the generality of the posterior parameters for use in global simulations, with an increase in global median correlation of 0.56 to 0.67. The simulated global mean annual gross primary productivity (GPP) decreased by ~ 10 PgC yr−1 over the 1990–2010 period due to the substantially shortened growing season length (GSL – by up to 30 days in the Northern Hemisphere), thus reducing the positive bias and improving the seasonal dynamics of ORCHIDEE compared to independent data-based estimates. Finally, the optimisations led to changes in the strength and location of the trends in the simulated vegetation productivity as represented by the GSL and mean annual fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR), suggesting care should be taken when using un-calibrated models in attribution studies. We suggest that the framework presented here can be applied for improving the phenology of all global TBMs.