Satellite observations of annual variability in terrestrial carbon cycles and seasonal growing seasons at high northern latitudes

John S. Kimball, Maosheng Zhao, Kyle C. McDonald, Faith Ann Heinsch, Steve Running

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Global satellite remote sensing records show evidence of recent vegetation greening and an advance in the onset of the growing season at high latitudes. We apply a terrestrial net primary production (NPP) model driven by satellite observations of vegetation properties and daily surface meteorology from an atmospheric GCM to assess spatial patterns, annual variability, and recent trends in vegetation productivity across Alaska and northwest Canada. We compare these results with regional observations of the timing of growing season onset derived from satellite passive microwave remote sensing measurements from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager, SSM/I. Our results show substantial variability in annual NPP for the region that appears to be driven largely by variations in canopy photosynthetic leaf area and average summer air temperatures. Variability in maximum canopy leaf area and NPP also correspond closely to remote sensing observations of the timing of the primary seasonal thaw event in spring. Relatively early spring thawing appears to enhance NPP, while delays in seasonal thawing and growing season onset reduce annual vegetation productivity. Our results indicate that advances in seasonal thawing and spring and summer warming for the region associated with global change are promoting a general increase in NPP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number52
Pages (from-to)244-254
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2004
EventMicrowave Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Environment IV - Honolulu, HI, United States
Duration: Nov 9 2004Nov 11 2004


  • Arctic tundra
  • Boreal
  • Carbon cycle
  • Climate change
  • Freeze/thaw
  • NPP
  • SSM/I


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