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Surface phenology and satellite sensor-derived onset of greenness: an initial comparison

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The objective of this work was to document the utility of phenological data derived from satellite sensors by comparing them with modelled phenology. Surface phenological model outputs (first leaf and first bloom dates) were correlated positively with satellite sensor-derived start of season (SOS) dates for 1991-1995 across the eastern United States. The correlation was highest for forest (r 0.62 for deciduous trees and 0.64 for mixed woodland) and tall grass (r 0.46) and lowest for short grass (r 0.37). The average correlation over all land cover types was 0.61. Average SOS dates were consistently earlier than Spring Index dates across all land cover types. This finding and limited native tree phenology data suggest that the SOS technique detects understorey green-up in the forest rather than overstorey species. The biweekly temporal resolution of the satellite sensor data placed an upper limit on prediction accuracy; thus, year-to-year variations at individual sites were typically small. Nevertheless, the correct biweek SOS could be identified from the surface models 61% of the time, and 1 biweek 96% of the time. Further temporal refinement of the satellite sensor measurements is necessary in order to connect them with surface phenology adequately and to develop links among 'green wave' components in selected biomes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 15, 1999

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