Continental-scale comparisons of terrestrial carbon sinks estimated from satellite data and ecosystem modeling 1982-1998

Christopher Potter, Steven Klooster, Ranga Myneni, Vanessa Genovese, Pang Ning Tan, Vipin Kumar

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A simulation model based on satellite observations of monthly vegetation cover was used to estimate monthly carbon fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems from 1982 to 1998. The NASA-CASA model was driven by vegetation properties derived from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and radiative transfer algorithms that were developed for Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). For the terrestrial biosphere, predicted net ecosystem production (NEP) flux for atmospheric CO2 has varied widely between an annual source of -0.9 Pg C per year and a sink of +2.1 Pg C per year. The southern hemisphere tropical zones (SHT, between 0° and 30°S) have a major influence over the predicted global trends in interannual variability of NEP. In contrast, the terrestrial NEP sink for atmospheric CO2 on the North American (NA) continent has been fairly consistent between +0.2 and +0.3 Pg C per year, except during relatively cool annual periods when continental NEP fluxes are predicted to total to nearly zero. The predicted NEP sink for atmospheric CO2 over Eurasia (EA) increased notably in the late 1980s and has been fairly consistent between +0.3 and +0.55 Pg C per year since 1988. High correlations can be detected between the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and predicted NEP fluxes on the EA continent and for the SHT latitude zones, whereas NEP fluxes for the North American continent as a whole do not correlate strongly with ENSO events over the same time series since 1982. These observations support the hypothesis that regional climate warming has had notable but relatively small-scale impacts on high latitude ecosystem (tundra and boreal) sinks for atmospheric CO 2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-213
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Nov 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from NASA programs in Intelligent Systems and Intelligent Data Understanding, and the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) Interdisciplinary Science Program. The NASA–CASA model data sets described in this paper are made available for electronic file transfer from .


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Ecosystems
  • Ocean climate
  • Remote sensing


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