Comparative study of the 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 El Niño events over different types of vegetation in South America

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This work presents results which help to understand the behaviour of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomalies over the South America continent during the two strongest El Niño events of the last century (1982-1983 and 1997-1998). The data used are parts of a long-term series (July 1981 to December 1999) of calibrated NDVI data derived from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (NOAA AVHRR) datasets. Special emphasis has been given to the analysis of the response of the major Brazilian vegetation types. This paper introduces an approach that enhances NDVI anomalies relative to the long-term climatology of the region. We find a negative NDVI anomaly for most of the region during the 1982-1983 event, whereas for the 1997-1998 event positive NDVI anomalies were observed over most regions. Only the 'Nordeste' region showed a similar vegetation response for both events. We identify three possible factors that may play a role in the different NDVI responses to the two El Niño events. Firstly, poor intercalibration of sensors may account for some, but not all of the differences. Secondly the response of the vegetation may depend upon the climate conditions prior to the El Niño events. Thirdly, the difference in the onset date and the duration of the mature phase of the two El Niño events, associated with very different Atlantic surface temperatures are shown to have dynamical consequences which may impact upon the vegetation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: INPE Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais C.P. 515, CEP 12201-970 São José dos Campos SP Brazil, Email: 2: Universidade de Taubaté, UNITAU, Departamento de Ciências Agrárias Taubaté SP Brazil, Email: 3: IRD/LTHE Institut de Recherche pour le développement/Laboratoire d'Etude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environnement Domaine Universitaire BP 53 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9 France, Email:

Publication date: October 1, 2004

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