Atmospheric teleconnection influence on North American land surface phenology

Matthew P. Dannenberg, Erika K. Wise, Mark Janko, Taehee Hwang, W. Kolby Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Short-term forecasts of vegetation activity are currently not well constrained due largely to our lack of understanding of coupled climate-vegetation dynamics mediated by complex interactions between atmospheric teleconnection patterns. Using ecoregion-scale estimates of North American vegetation activity inferred from remote sensing (1982-2015), we examined seasonal and spatial relationships between land surface phenology and the atmospheric components of five teleconnection patterns over the tropical Pacific, north Pacific, and north Atlantic. Using a set of regression experiments, we also tested for interactions among these teleconnection patterns and assessed predictability of vegetation activity solely based on knowledge of atmospheric teleconnection indices. Autumn-to-winter composites of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) were strongly correlated with start of growing season timing, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The two leading modes of north Pacific variability (the Pacific-North American, PNA, and West Pacific patterns) were significantly correlated with start of growing season timing across much of southern Canada and the upper Great Lakes. Regression models based on these Pacific teleconnections were skillful predictors of spring phenology across an east-west swath of temperate and boreal North America, between 40°N-60°N. While the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was not strongly correlated with start of growing season timing on its own, we found compelling evidence of widespread NAO-SOI and NAO-PNA interaction effects. These results suggest that knowledge of atmospheric conditions over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans increases the predictability of North American spring phenology. A more robust consideration of the complexity of the atmospheric circulation system, including interactions across multiple ocean basins, is an important step towards accurate forecasts of vegetation activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034029
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • El Nino Southern Oscillation
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • Pacific-North American pattern
  • land surface phenology
  • remote sensing
  • spring onset
  • teleconnection interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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