New datasets for quantifying snow-vegetation-atmosphere interactions in boreal birch and conifer forests
Boreal forests exert a strong influence on weather and climate by modifying the surface energy and radiation balance. However, global climate and numerical weather prediction models use forest parameter values from simple look-up tables or maps that are derived from limited satellite data, on large grid scales. In reality, Arctic landscapes are inherently heterogeneous, with highly variable land cover types and structures on a variety of spatial scales. There is value in collecting detailed field data for different areas of vegetation cover, to assess the accuracy of large-scale assumptions. To address these issues, a consortium of researchers funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council have collected extensive data on radiation, meteorology, snow cover and canopy structure at two contrasting Arctic forest sites. The chosen study sites were an area of boreal birch forest near Abisko, Sweden in March/April 2011 and mixed conifer forest at Sodankylä, Finland in March/April 2012. At both sites, arrays comprising ten shortwave pyranometers and four longwave pyrgeometers were deployed for periods of up to 50 days, under forest plots of varying canopy structures and densities. In addition, downwelling longwave irradiance and global and diffuse shortwave irradiances were recorded at nearby open sites representing the top-of-canopy conditions. Meteorological data were recorded at all sub-canopy and open sites using automatic weather stations. Over the same periods, tree skin temperatures were measured on selected trees using contact thermocouples, infrared thermocouples and thermal imagery. Canopy structure was accurately quantified through manual surveys, extensive hemispherical photography and terrestrial laser scans of every study plot. Sub-canopy snow depth and snow water equivalent were measured on fine-scale grids at each study plot. Regular site maintenance ensured a high quality dataset covering the important Arctic spring period. The data have several applications, for example in forest ecology, canopy radiative transfer models, snow hydrological modelling, and land surface schemes, for a variety of canopy types from sparse, leafless birch to dense pine and spruce. The work also allows the comparison of modern, highly detailed methods such as laser scanning and thermal imagery with older, well-established data collection methods. By combining these data with airborne and satellite remote sensing data, snow-vegetation-atmosphere interactions could be estimated over a wide area of the heterogeneous boreal landscape. This could improve estimates of crucial parameters such as land surface albedo on the grid scales required for global or regional weather and climate models.