Evaluation of a Data Assimilation System for Land Surface Models Using CLM4.5

Andrew M. Fox, Timothy J. Hoar, Jeffrey L. Anderson, Avelino F. Arellano, William K. Smith, Marcy E. Litvak, Natasha MacBean, David S. Schimel, David J.P. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The magnitude and persistence of land carbon (C) pools influence long-term climate feedbacks. Interactive ecological processes influence land C pools and our understanding of these processes is imperfect so land surface models have errors and biases when compared to each other and to real observations. Here we implement an Ensemble Adjustment Kalman Filter (EAKF), a sequential state data assimilation technique to reduce these errors and biases. We implement the EAKF using the Data Assimilation Research Testbed coupled with the Community Land Model (CLM 4.5 in CESM 1.2). We assimilated simulated and real satellite observations for a site in central New Mexico, United States. A series of observing system simulation experiments allowed assessment of the data assimilation system without model error. This showed that assimilating biomass and leaf area index observations decreased model error in C dynamics forecasts (29% using biomass observations and 40% using leaf area index observations) and that assimilation in combination shows greater improvement (51% using both observation streams). Assimilating real observations highlighted likely model structural errors and we implemented an adaptive model-variance-inflation technique to allow the model to track the observations. Monthly and longer model forecasts using real observations were improved relative to forecasts without data assimilation. The reliable forecast lead-time varied by model pool and is dependent on how tightly the C pool is coupled to meteorologically driven processes. The EAKF and similar state data assimilation techniques could reduce errors in projections of the land C sink and provide more robust forecasts of C pools and land-atmosphere exchanges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2471-2494
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • carbon cycle
  • community land model
  • data assimilation
  • data assimilation research testbed
  • remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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