Comparing land surface phenology derived from satellite and GPS network microwave remote sensing

Matthew O. Jones, John S. Kimball, Eric E. Small, Kristine M. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The land surface phenology (LSP) start of season (SOS) metric signals the seasonal onset of vegetation activity, including canopy growth and associated increases in land-atmosphere water, energy and carbon (CO2) exchanges influencing weather and climate variability. The vegetation optical depth (VOD) parameter determined from satellite passive microwave remote sensing provides for global LSP monitoring that is sensitive to changes in vegetation canopy water content and biomass, and insensitive to atmosphere and solar illumination constraints. Direct field measures of canopy water content and biomass changes desired for LSP validation are generally lacking due to the prohibitive costs of maintaining regional monitoring networks. Alternatively, a normalized microwave reflectance index (NMRI) derived from GPS base station measurements is sensitive to daily vegetation water content changes and may provide for effective microwave LSP validation. We compared multiyear (2007-2011) NMRI and satellite VOD records at over 300 GPS sites in North America, and their derived SOS metrics for a subset of 24 homogenous land cover sites to investigate VOD and NMRI correspondence, and potential NMRI utility for LSP validation. Significant correlations (P < 0.05) were found at 276 of 305 sites (90.5 %), with generally favorable correspondence in the resulting SOS metrics (r 2 = 0.73, P < 0.001, RMSE = 36.8 days). This study is the first attempt to compare satellite microwave LSP metrics to a GPS network derived reflectance index and highlights both the utility and limitations of the NMRI data for LSP validation, including spatial scale discrepancies between local NMRI measurements and relatively coarse satellite VOD retrievals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1315
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • GPS
  • Land surface phenology
  • Microwave vegetation optical depth
  • Normalized microwave reflectance index
  • Remote sensing


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