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Northern Eurasia Landsurface Properties and Change and its Role in the Global Earth System

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Session Description: 

Northern Eurasia is undergoing rapid and significant changes associated with changing climate and socio-economic patterns from the 20th century to present. Climatic changes over this largest landmass in the northern extratropics, accounting for approximately 20% of the global landmass, interact with and affect the rate of the global change through atmospheric circulation and through strong biogeophysical and biogeochemical feedbacks. These feedbacks arise from changes in the surface energy, the water and carbon budgets of the continent. How this carbon-rich, cold region component of the Earth system functions as a regional entity and how it interacts with and feeds back to the greater global system is largely unknown. Thus, the capability to predict changes that may occur within the region and the consequences of those changes are largely unknown - hampering projections of global change. Studies of climatic, socioeconomic and environmental paths and processes in this region, therefore, are an important contribution to reducing the uncertainties in our understanding of global change beyond the domain of Northern Eurasia.

Current NEESPI Status
The Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative is an international, interdisciplinary program established to address large scale and long term manifestations of climate and environmental change within and extant to the region. The NEESPI study area includes the Former Soviet Union, Northern China, Mongolia, Fennoscandia and Eastern Europe. NEESPI strives to understand how land ecosystems and continental water dynamics in Northern Eurasia interact with and alter the climate system, Session Description 2 of 2 8/8/07 AGCI SSSII: Northern Boreal Forest biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. The organization's overarching science question is: How do we develop our predictive capability of terrestrial ecosystems dynamics over Northern Eurasia for the 21st century to support global projections as well as informed decision making in the region?

Preparation of the NEESPI science plan (2003-04) occurred simultaneously with the initiation of pilot projects and submission of proposals, of which 54 have been funded and are official NEESPI activities ( Twenty additional proposals are under consideration for recognition and endorsement by NEESPI, and several others are under review. Initial NEESPI activities and presentations include: presentations at the AGU, EGU, ISRSE and ESSP International Conferences; organization of the NEESPI Science Team Meeting with approximately 100 participants from 15 countries and six regional NEESPI workshops; three successful proposals to the International Polar Year; preparation of a special NEESPI issue of the "Global and Planetary Change" journal (currently on, the paper copy will appear in a couple of months); and the establishment of a network of the NEESPI Focus Research and Science Support Centers in the United States, Russia, China and Germany. As a result of these steps, NEESPI is widely recognized and endorsed as a potentially valuable resource for the international scientific community for developing the scientific plan that fostered regional research and has already created scientific research partnerships around the world.

During the past 18 months, the NEESPI program has been endorsed by several Earth System Science Partnership Program (ESSP) Programs and Projects: International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme (IGBP); World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) through the Climate and Cryosphere Project (CliC) and, in the near future, the WCRP/Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX); and several ESSP Projects: Global Water System Project (GWSP); Global Carbon Project (GCP), Global Land Project (GLP), and Integrated Land Ecosystem - Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS). Additionally, NEESPI has requested from ESSP the status of an ESSP Integrated Regional Study for northern Eurasia.

Topic of the Workshop
A key issue for emerging Earth system models is the development of model components that capture biophysical and biological changes in the northern high latitudes. Among major NEESPI-related research deliverables, we anticipate to contribute a suite of regional models that seamlessly incorporate major regionally specific interactions and feedbacks associated with terrestrial processes in northern Eurasia. In addition, NEESPI can provide invaluable insight into Earth system data initialization and parameter sets for the global models. In return, the global modeling community can provide insight into NEESPI with regard to important processes and mechanisms that contribute to the design of field observations and experimentation. Among factors of uncertainty that are of global importance and concern to be discussed at the workshop are (a) changes in permafrost and their interaction with terrestrial carbon (methane and CO2 emissions); (b) potentially dramatic land cover changes that may affect regional and global energy, water and biogeochemical cycles, including atmospheric aerosol loading; (c) strong climatic changes affecting and being affected by all the above; and (d) social processes that affect and feed back to environmental changes in the region and beyond. How to tackle these factors in global Earth models using the NEESPI expertise will be discussed.

This workshop produced a set of recommendations and an implementation plan for integration with NEESPI studies with the global Earth system modeling community. For an overview of the outcomes see:
• BAMS 2008: The Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership: An Example of Science Applied to Societal Needs
• Eos 2007: Northern Eurasia and the Global Earth System

Workshop Topic (s): 
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Climate Variability and Change (including Climate Modeling)
  • Ecosystems
  • Land-Use/Land-Cover Change
  • Water Cycle