Estimating Asian terrestrial carbon fluxes from CONTRAIL aircraft and surface CO2 observations for the period 2006–2010
Abstract. Current estimates of the terrestrial carbon fluxes in Asia show large uncertainties particularly in the boreal and mid-latitudes and in China. In this paper, we present an updated carbon flux estimate for Asia ("Asia" refers to lands as far west as the Urals and is divided into boreal Eurasia, temperate Eurasia and tropical Asia based on TransCom regions) by introducing aircraft CO2 measurements from the CONTRAIL (Comprehensive Observation Network for Trace gases by Airline) program into an inversion modeling system based on the CarbonTracker framework. We estimated the averaged annual total Asian terrestrial land CO2 sink was about −1.56 Pg C yr−1 over the period 2006–2010, which offsets about one-third of the fossil fuel emission from Asia (+4.15 Pg C yr−1). The uncertainty of the terrestrial uptake estimate was derived from a set of sensitivity tests and ranged from −1.07 to −1.80 Pg C yr−1, comparable to the formal Gaussian error of ±1.18 Pg C yr−1 (1-sigma). The largest sink was found in forests, predominantly in coniferous forests (−0.64 ± 0.70 Pg C yr−1) and mixed forests (−0.14 ± 0.27 Pg C yr−1); and the second and third large carbon sinks were found in grass/shrub lands and croplands, accounting for −0.44 ± 0.48 Pg C yr−1 and −0.20 ± 0.48 Pg C yr−1, respectively. The carbon fluxes per ecosystem type have large a priori Gaussian uncertainties, and the reduction of uncertainty based on assimilation of sparse observations over Asia is modest (8.7–25.5%) for most individual ecosystems. The ecosystem flux adjustments follow the detailed a priori spatial patterns by design, which further increases the reliance on the a priori biosphere exchange model. The peak-to-peak amplitude of inter-annual variability (IAV) was 0.57 Pg C yr−1 ranging from −1.71 Pg C yr−1 to −2.28 Pg C yr−1. The IAV analysis reveals that the Asian CO2 sink was sensitive to climate variations, with the lowest uptake in 2010 concurrent with a summer flood and autumn drought and the largest CO2 sink in 2009 owing to favorable temperature and plentiful precipitation conditions. We also found the inclusion of the CONTRAIL data in the inversion modeling system reduced the uncertainty by 11% over the whole Asian region, with a large reduction in the southeast of boreal Eurasia, southeast of temperate Eurasia and most tropical Asian areas.