Evidence is presented from the satellite microwave remote sensing record that the timing of seasonal thawing and subsequent initiation of the growing season in early spring has advanced by approximately 8 days from 1988 to 2001 for the pan-Arctic basin and Alaska. These trends are highly variable across the region, with North America experiencing a larger advance relative to Eurasia and the entire region. Interannual variability in the timing of spring thaw as detected from the remote sensing record corresponded directly to seasonal anomalies in mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations for the region, including the timing of the seasonal draw down of atmospheric CO2 from terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP) in spring, and seasonal maximum and minimum CO2 concentrations. The timing of the seasonal thaw for a given year was also found to be a significant (P < 0.01) predictor of the seasonal amplitude of atmospheric CO2 for the following year. These results imply that the timing of seasonal thawing in spring has a major impact on terrestrial NPP and net carbon exchange at high latitudes. The initiation of the growing season has also been occurring earlier, on average, over the time period addressed in this study and may be a major mechanism driving observed atmospheric CO2 seasonal cycle advances, vegetation greening, and enhanced productivity for the northern high latitudes.
© 2004 American Meteorological Society
McDonald, K., J. Kimball, E. Njoku, R. Zimmermann, and M. Zhao, 2004: Variability in Springtime Thaw in the Terrestrial High Latitudes: Monitoring a Major Control on the Biospheric Assimilation of Atmospheric CO2 with Spaceborne Microwave Remote Sensing. Earth Interact., 8, 1–23, doi: 10.1175/1087-3562(2004)8<1:VISTIT>2.0.CO;2