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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Changing wildfire regimes in the western US and other fire-prone regions pose considerable risks to human health and ecosystem function. However, our understanding of wildfire behavior is still limited by a lack of data products that systematically quantify fire spread, behavior and impacts. Here we develop a novel object-based system for tracking the progression of individual fires using 375 m Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite active fire detections. At each half-daily time step, fire pixels are clustered according to their spatial proximity, and are either appended to an existing active fire object or are assigned to a new object. This automatic system allows us to update the attributes of each fire event, delineate the fire perimeter, and identify the active fire front shortly after satellite data acquisition. Using this system, we mapped the history of California fires during 2012–2020. Our approach and data stream may be useful for calibration and evaluation of fire spread models, estimation of near-real-time wildfire emissions, and as means for prescribing initial conditions in fire forecast models.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  3. Abstract

    Biophysical effects from deforestation have the potential to amplify carbon losses but are often neglected in carbon accounting systems. Here we use both Earth system model simulations and satellite–derived estimates of aboveground biomass to assess losses of vegetation carbon caused by the influence of tropical deforestation on regional climate across different continents. In the Amazon, warming and drying arising from deforestation result in an additional 5.1 ± 3.7% loss of aboveground biomass. Biophysical effects also amplify carbon losses in the Congo (3.8 ± 2.5%) but do not lead to significant additional carbon losses in tropical Asia due to its high levels of annual mean precipitation. These findings indicate that tropical forests may be undervalued in carbon accounting systems that neglect climate feedbacks from surface biophysical changes and that the positive carbon–climate feedback from deforestation-driven climate change is higher than the feedback originating from fossil fuel emissions.

  4. Abstract Understanding the physical drivers of seasonal hydroclimatic variability and improving predictive skill remains a challenge with important socioeconomic and environmental implications for many regions around the world. Physics-based deterministic models show limited ability to predict precipitation as the lead time increases, due to imperfect representation of physical processes and incomplete knowledge of initial conditions. Similarly, statistical methods drawing upon established climate teleconnections have low prediction skill due to the complex nature of the climate system. Recently, promising data-driven approaches have been proposed, but they often suffer from overparameterization and overfitting due to the short observational record, and they often do not account for spatiotemporal dependencies among covariates (i.e., predictors such as sea surface temperatures). This study addresses these challenges via a predictive model based on a graph-guided regularizer that simultaneously promotes similarity of predictive weights for highly correlated covariates and enforces sparsity in the covariate domain. This approach both decreases the effective dimensionality of the problem and identifies the most predictive features without specifying them a priori. We use large ensemble simulations from a climate model to construct this regularizer, reducing the structural uncertainty in the estimation. We apply the learned model to predict winter precipitation in the southwesternmore »United States using sea surface temperatures over the entire Pacific basin, and demonstrate its superiority compared to other regularization approaches and statistical models informed by known teleconnections. Our results highlight the potential to combine optimally the space–time structure of predictor variables learned from climate models with new graph-based regularizers to improve seasonal prediction.« less
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  6. Abstract Increasing concentrations of CO 2 in the atmosphere influence climate both through CO 2 ’s role as a greenhouse gas and through its impact on plants. Plants respond to atmospheric CO 2 concentrations in several ways that can alter surface energy and water fluxes and thus surface climate, including changes in stomatal conductance, water use, and canopy leaf area. These plant physiological responses are already embedded in most Earth system models, and a robust literature demonstrates that they can affect global-scale temperature. However, the physiological contribution to transient warming has yet to be assessed systematically in Earth system models. Here this gap is addressed using carbon cycle simulations from phases 5 and 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) to isolate the radiative and physiological contributions to the transient climate response (TCR), which is defined as the change in globally averaged near-surface air temperature during the 20-yr window centered on the time of CO 2 doubling relative to preindustrial CO 2 concentrations. In CMIP6 models, the physiological effect contributes 0.12°C ( σ : 0.09°C; range: 0.02°–0.29°C) of warming to the TCR, corresponding to 6.1% of the full TCR ( σ : 3.8%; range: 1.4%–13.9%). Moreover, variation in themore »physiological contribution to the TCR across models contributes disproportionately more to the intermodel spread of TCR estimates than it does to the mean. The largest contribution of plant physiology to CO 2 -forced warming—and the intermodel spread in warming—occurs over land, especially in forested regions.« less