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Title: The Global Influence of Cloud Optical Thickness on Terrestrial Carbon Uptake

Clouds can modify terrestrial productivity by reducing total surface radiation and increasing diffuse radiation, which may be more evenly distributed through plant canopies and increase ecosystem carbon uptake (the “diffuse fertilization effect”). Previous work at ecosystem-level observational towers demonstrated that diffuse photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; 400–700 nm) increases with cloud optical thickness (COT) until a COT of approximately 10, defined here as the “low-COT regime.” To identify whether the low-COT regime also influences carbon uptake on broader spatial and longer temporal time scales, we use global, monthly data to investigate the influence of COT on carbon uptake in three land-cover types: shrublands, forests, and croplands. While there are limitations in global gross primary production (GPP) products, global COT data derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) reveal that during the growing season tropical and subtropical regions more frequently experience a monthly low-COT regime (>20% of the time) than other regions of the globe. Contrary to ecosystem-level studies, comparisons of monthly COT with monthly satellite-derived solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and modeled GPP indicate that, although carbon uptake generally increases with COT under the low-COT regime, the correlations between COT and carbon uptake are insignificant (p > 0.05) in shrublands, forests, and croplands at regional scales. When scaled globally, vegetated regions under the low-COT regime account for only 4.9% of global mean annual GPP, suggesting that clouds and their diffuse fertilization effect become less significant drivers of terrestrial carbon uptake at broader spatial and temporal scales.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Earth Interactions
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1-22
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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