Climate Data

Carbon Emissions from Historical Land-Use and Land-Use Change

Annual net land-atmosphere carbon flux and net flux of carbon to the atmosphere due to land-use and land-use change (LULUC) are estimated using an integrated assessment model and three historical reconstructions of land use and land use conversion. The data span 1800-2010 and are aggregated for nine regions of the globe.

Key Strengths:

  • Carbon flux estimates are based on three data sets using a single model
  • Estimates include effects of the nitrogen cycle
  • Estimates include the effects of agricultural expansion, urban land, and wood harvest

Key Limitations:

  • Structural uncertainties due to the model are unknown
  • The effects of several key processes (including peat lands and shifting cultivation) are not included owing to lack of sufficient data

Expert Developer Guidance

The following was contributed by Prasanth Meiyappan (U Illinois), March, 2013:

The file contains historical estimates (1800-2010) of annual net land-atmosphere carbon flux and net flux of carbon to atmosphere due to land-use and land-use change (LULUC) as calculated using three distinct historical reconstructions of LULUC based on Meiyappan and Jain (2012).

Key Strengths:

1. Carbon estimates using Multiple data sets using a single model, allows to isolate and study LULUC data uncertainty from model related uncertainty.
2. The estimates include the effects of nitrogen cycle, which is relatively new for current generation of land-surface models.
3. This is the first time Houghton's regional data used in book-keeping model is used within a spatially explicit model to estimate carbon emissions (see article for details).
4. The estimates include the combined effect of agricultural expansion (cropland and pastureland), urban land and wood harvest.

Key Limitations:

1. The estimates are obviously subject to model uncertainties. How much the results would differ if the same LULUC data sets are used with a different model is a question to address.
2. It should be noted that while comparing with other studies, uncertainties could also arise due to difference in implementation of same land-use change data in the model apart from uncertainties due to structural differences in model. 
2. Several key processes contributing to terrestrial carbon emissions (e.g. peat lands, shifting cultivation) are not included in these estimates, due to lack of data at a global scale. 

Research Applications:

1. Primarily for model and data inter-comparison studies. This data forms a integral component in the Carbon Cycle chapter of the upcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. 
2. Uncertainty quantification.#

Years of Record

1800/01 to 2012/09
temporal metadataID:




Data Time Period Extended?

no, data set not being extended


Spatial Resolution

Regionally Aggregated

Ocean or Land

Land Only

Missing Data Flag

spatially complete

Vertical Levels

Input Data

Historical Land-Use and Land-Use Change reconstructions

Earth system components and main variables

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes



Cite this page

Meiyappan, Prasanth & National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 27 Feb 2017. "The Climate Data Guide: Carbon Emissions from Historical Land-Use and Land-Use Change ." Retrieved from

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.