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Earth Interactions

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Global satellite remote sensing records show evidence of recent vegetation greening and an advancing growing season at high latitudes. Satellite remote sensing–derived measures of photosynthetic leaf area index (LAI) and vegetation gross and net primary productivity (GPP and NPP) from the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Pathfinder record are utilized to assess annual variability in vegetation productivity for Alaska and northwest Canada in association with the Western Arctic Linkage Experiment (WALE). These results are compared with satellite microwave remote sensing measurements of springtime thaw from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I). The SSM/I-derived timing of the primary springtime thaw event was well correlated with annual anomalies in maximum LAI in spring and summer (P ≤ 0.009; n = 13), and GPP and NPP (P ≤ 0.0002) for the region. Mean annual variability in springtime thaw was on the order of ±7 days, with corresponding impacts to annual productivity of approximately 1% day−1. Years with relatively early seasonal thawing showed generally greater LAI and annual productivity, while years with delayed seasonal thawing showed corresponding reductions in canopy cover and productivity. The apparent sensitivity of LAI and vegetation productivity to springtime thaw indicates that a recent advance in the seasonal thaw cycle and associated lengthening of the potential period of photosynthesis in spring is sufficient to account for the sign and magnitude of an estimated positive vegetation productivity trend for the western Arctic from 1982 to 2000.


Arctic, AVHRR, Boreal, carbon, Freeze-thaw, GPP, LAI, NPP, Phenology, SSM/I, WALE



© 2006 American Meteorological Society