An atmospheric transport model and observations of atmospheric CO2 are used to evaluate the performance of four Terrestrial Carbon Models (TCMs) in simulating the seasonal dynamics and interannual variability of atmospheric CO2 between 1980 and 1991. The TCMs were forced with time varying atmospheric CO2 concentrations, climate, and land use to simulate the net exchange of carbon between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. The monthly surface CO2 fluxes from the TCMs were used to drive the Model of Atmospheric Transport and Chemistry and the simulated seasonal cycles and concentration anomalies are compared with observations from several stations in the CMDL network. The TCMs underestimate the amplitude of the seasonal cycle and tend to simulate too early an uptake of CO2 during the spring by approximately one to two months. The model fluxes show an increase in amplitude as a result of land-use change, but that pattern is not so evident in the simulated atmospheric amplitudes, and the different models suggest different causes for the amplitude increase (i.e., CO2 fertilization, climate variability or land use change). The comparison of the modeled concentration anomalies with the observed anomalies indicates that either the TCMs underestimate interannual variability in the exchange of CO2 between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere, or that either the variability in the ocean fluxes or the atmospheric transport may be key factors in the atmospheric interannual variability.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Global Biogeochemical Cycles


American Geophysical Union (AGU)

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Copyright 2002 by the American Geophysical Union.


This is an article published by AGU in Global Biogeochemical Cycles in 2002, available online: