Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Young students, satellites aid understanding of climate-biosphere link


  • Michael A. White,

  • Mark D. Schwartz,

  • Steven W. Running


Data collected by young students from kindergarten through high school are being combined with satellite data to develop a more consistent understanding of the intimate connection between climate dynamics and the terrestrial biosphere. Comparison of the two sets of data involving the onset of budburst among trees and other vegetation has been extremely encouraging.

Surface-atmosphere interactions involving exchanges of carbon, water, and energy are strongly affected by interannual variability in the timing and length of the vegetation growing season, and satellite remote sensing has the unique ability to consistently monitor global spatiotemporal variability in growing season dynamics. But without a clear picture of how satellite information (Figure 1) relates to ground conditions, the application of satellite growing season estimates for monitoring of climate-vegetation interactions, calculation of energy budgets, and large-scale ecological modeling is extremely limited.The integrated phenological analysis of field data, satellite observations, and climate advocated by Schwartz [1998], for example, has been primarily limited by the lack of geographically extensive and consistently measured phenology databases.