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Research Highlight

Terrestrial Model Data Management

Topics: Clean Energy Climate and Environmental Systems

ORNL Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) researchers have been leading the data management component for the Multi-Scale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP) project since 2010.  This team made contributions by working with the project team to provide a structurally and physically consistent set of environmental and meteorological input data that drove the 20+ terrestrial biosphere models participating in the MsTMIP. Comprehensive quality-assuring and quality-checking and standardization of model outputs yielded high-quality and ready-to-analyze model results and archiving relevant data products at the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC,

The results of the MsTMIP are outlined in a recent publication in Nature titled “Global patterns of drought recovery”.

Recovery time, the length of time an ecosystem requires to revert to its pre-drought functional state is a critical metric of drought impact. Three independent global data products of gross primary productivity (GPP) were used to show drought recovery times are strongly associated with climate and carbon cycle dynamics. Across the globe, recovery is longest in the tropics and high northern latitudes and drought impacts have increased over the 20th century. During the 1901 decade, the recovery time was 15 to 20 months, for the 2001 decade, the trend increased to 36 to 58 months. If future droughts become more frequent, the time between droughts may become shorter than drought recovery time, leading to chronically impacted ecosystems. A chronic state of incomplete recovery may become the new normal over the remainder of the 21st century.

The primary goal of the MsTMIP inter-comparison is to quantify and diagnose any biases and uncertainties in terrestrial biosphere model estimates of regional and global carbon budgets resulting from differences in model formulation and parameterization.

MsTMIP is funded by NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology Program in support of the interagency North American Carbon Program.

Acknowledgment from the Modeling and Synthesis Thematic Data Center at ORNL DAAC ( and Multi-scale synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP) (

Schwalm et al., Global patterns of drought recovery, Nature, 2017