The influence of meteorological conditions and topographic parameters on the beech forest microclimate of Simbruini Mountains, central Italy
The relation between vegetation surface temperature and remotely sensed spectral vegetation indices has been examined by a number of authors. The observed linear decrease in surface temperature with the increase in vegetation cover density has generally been explained in terms of the increase in latent heat flux associated with greater amounts of transpirationally active vegetation. However, these investigations have initially concentrated in spatially uniform crop or pasture targets on level terrain, excluding more complex forested environments with variable Sun-sensor-surface geometry. In irregular terrains, the vegetation surface temperature may be strongly influenced by topographic parameters, such as altitude and insulation angle, so that the actual forest microclimate is often difficult to evaluate. Moreover, in the thermal regime, the emission of radiative flux within the canopy element is very tightly coupled to the environment through driving mechanisms such as meteorological conditions. In fact, the allocation of absorbed solar radiation into sensible heat flux and latent heat flux is dominated by the availability of water at the Earth's surface and thus by precipitations and air temperature conditions. In this paper, which uses remotely sensed inputs of surface temperature and vegetation fractional cover, the effects of topographic parameters and vegetation cover density on surface temperature of vegetation are investigated based on Landsat 5 satellite images obtained in the daytime of two clear summer days with different antecedent meteorological conditions. For both scenes analysed, results indicate that altitude as well as the orientation of the surface relative to the Sun were the most important factors controlling surface temperatures of beech forests of Simbruini Mountains, in central Italy.