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Keywords:

  • vegetation phenology;
  • MODIS;
  • land surface temperature;
  • urban heat island;
  • phenology model

Abstract

Recent studies using both field measurements and satellite-derived-vegetation indices have demonstrated that global warming is influencing vegetation growth and phenology. To accurately predict the future response of vegetation to climate variation, a thorough understanding of vegetation phenological cycles and their relationship to temperature and precipitation is required. In this paper, vegetation phenological transition dates identified using data from the moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) in 2001 are linked with MODIS land surface temperature (LST) data from the northern hemisphere between 35°N and 70°N. The results show well-defined patterns dependent on latitude, in which vegetation greenup gradually migrates northward starting in March, and dormancy spreads southward from late September. Among natural vegetation land-cover types, the growing-season length for forests is strongly correlated with variation in mean annual LST. For urban areas, the onset of greenup is 4–9 days earlier on average, and the onset of dormancy is about 2–16 days later, relative to adjacent natural vegetation. This difference (especially for urban vs. forests) is apparently related to urban heat island effects that result in both the average spring temperature and the mean annual temperature in urban areas being about 1–3°C higher relative to rural areas. The results also indicate that urban heat island effects on vegetation phenology are stronger in North America than in Europe and Asia. Finally, the onset of forest greenup at continental scales can be effectively described using a thermal time-chilling model, which can be used to infer the delay or advance of greenup onset in relation to climatic warming at global scale.