Articles | Volume 10, issue 7
Development and technical paper
17 Jul 2017
Development and technical paper |  | 17 Jul 2017

Tiling soil textures for terrestrial ecosystem modelling via clustering analysis: a case study with CLASS-CTEM (version 2.1)

Joe R. Melton, Reinel Sospedra-Alfonso, and Kelly E. McCusker

Abstract. We investigate the application of clustering algorithms to represent sub-grid scale variability in soil texture for use in a global-scale terrestrial ecosystem model. Our model, the coupled Canadian Land Surface Scheme – Canadian Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (CLASS-CTEM), is typically implemented at a coarse spatial resolution (approximately 2. 8° × 2. 8°) due to its use as the land surface component of the Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM). CLASS-CTEM can, however, be run with tiling of the land surface as a means to represent sub-grid heterogeneity. We first determined that the model was sensitive to tiling of the soil textures via an idealized test case before attempting to cluster soil textures globally. To cluster a high-resolution soil texture dataset onto our coarse model grid, we use two linked algorithms – the Ordering Points to Identify the Clustering Structure (OPTICS) algorithm (Ankerst et al., 1999; Daszykowski et al., 2002) and the algorithm of Sander et al. (2003) – to provide tiles of representative soil textures for use as CLASS-CTEM inputs. The clustering process results in, on average, about three tiles per CLASS-CTEM grid cell with most cells having four or less tiles. Results from CLASS-CTEM simulations conducted with the tiled inputs (Cluster) versus those using a simple grid-mean soil texture (Gridmean) show CLASS-CTEM, at least on a global scale, is relatively insensitive to the tiled soil textures; however, differences can be large in arid or peatland regions. The Cluster simulation has generally lower soil moisture and lower overall vegetation productivity than the Gridmean simulation except in arid regions where plant productivity increases. In these dry regions, the influence of the tiling is stronger due to the general state of vegetation moisture stress which allows a single tile, whose soil texture retains more plant-available water, to yield much higher productivity. Although the use of clustering analysis appears promising as a means to represent sub-grid heterogeneity, soil textures appear to be reasonably represented for global-scale simulations using a simple grid-mean value.

Short summary
Climate models have large grid cells due to the computational cost of running these complex models. Within grid cells like these, the land surface can vary dramatically impacting the exchange of water, carbon, and energy between the atmosphere and land. We use a technique to determine natural clusters of high-resolution soil texture within large grid cells and use them as inputs to our model. We find relatively low sensitivity to soil texture changes except in very dry regions and peatlands.