Evaluation of the utility of satellite-based vegetation leaf area index data for climate simulations

W. Buermann, J. Dong, X. Zeng, R. B. Myneni, R. E. Dickinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


In this study the utility of satellite-based leaf area index (LAI) data in improving the simulation of near-surface climate with the NCAR Community Climate Model, version 3 (CCM3), GCM is evaluated. The use of mean LAI values, obtained from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer Pathfinder data for the 1980s, leads to notable warming and decreased precipitation over large parts of the Northern Hemisphere lands during the boreal summer. Such warming and decreased rainfall reduces discrepancies between the simulated and observed near-surface temperature and precipitation fields. The impact of interannual vegetation extremes observed served during the 1980s on near-surface climate is also investigated by utilizing the maximum and minimum LAI values from the 10-yr LAI record. Surface energy budget analysis indicates that the dominant impact of interannual LAI variations is modification of the partitioning of net radiant energy between latent and sensible heat fluxes brought about through changes in the proportion of energy absorbed by the vegetation canopy and the underlying ground and not from surface albedo changes. The enhanced latent heat activity in the greener scenario leads to an annual cooling of the earth land surface of about 0.3°C, accompanied by an increase in precipitation of 0.04 mm day-1. The tropical evergreen forests and temperature grasslands contribute most to this cooling and increased rainfall. These results illustrate the importance and utility of satellite-based vegetation LAI data in simulations of near-surface climate variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3536-3550
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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