Biogeophysical impacts of forestation in Europe: first results from the LUCAS (Land Use and Climate Across Scales) regional climate model intercomparison


The Land Use and Climate Across Scales Flagship Pilot Study (LUCAS FPS) is a coordinated community effort to improve the integration of land use change (LUC) in regional climate models (RCMs) and to quantify the biogeophysical effects of LUC on local to regional climate in Europe. In the first phase of LUCAS, nine RCMs are used to explore the biogeophysical impacts of re-/afforestation over Europe: two idealized experiments representing respectively a non-forested and a maximally forested Europe are compared in order to quantify spatial and temporal variations in the regional climate sensitivity to forestation. We find some robust features in the simulated response to forestation. In particular, all models indicate a year-round decrease in surface albedo, which is most pronounced in winter and spring at high latitudes. This results in a winter warming effect, with values ranging from +0.2 to +1 K on average over Scandinavia depending on models. However, there are also a number of strongly diverging responses. For instance, there is no agreement on the sign of temperature changes in summer with some RCMs predicting a widespread cooling from forestation (well below −2 K in most regions), a widespread warming (around +2 K or above in most regions) or a mixed response. A large part of the inter-model spread is attributed to the representation of land processes. In particular, differences in the partitioning of sensible and latent heat are identified as a key source of uncertainty in summer. Atmospheric processes, such as changes in incoming radiation due to cloud cover feedbacks, also influence the simulated response in most seasons. In conclusion, the multi-model approach we use here has the potential to deliver more robust and reliable information to stakeholders involved in land use planning, as compared to results based on single models. However, given the contradictory responses identified, our results also show that there are still fundamental uncertainties that need to be tackled to better anticipate the possible intended or unintended consequences of LUC on regional climates.
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