Climate Drivers Linked to Changing Seasonality of Alaska Coastal Tundra Vegetation Productivity

The mechanisms driving trends and variability of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) for tundra in Alaska along the Beaufort, east Chukchi, and east Bering Seas for 1982-2013 are evaluated in the context of remote sensing, reanalysis, and meteorological station data as well as regional modeling. Over the entire season the tundra vegetation continues to green; however, biweekly NDVI has declined during the early part of the growing season in all of the Alaskan tundra domains. These springtime declines coincide with increased snow depth in spring documented in northern Alaska. The tundra region generally has warmed over the summer but intraseasonal analysis shows a decline in midsummer land surface temperatures. The midsummer cooling is consistent with recent large-scale circulation changes characterized by lower sea level pressures, which favor increased cloud cover. In northern Alaska, the sea-breeze circulation is strengthened with an increase in atmospheric moisture/cloudiness inland when the land surface is warmed in a regional model, suggesting the potential for increased vegetation to feedback onto the atmospheric circulation that could reduce midsummer temperatures. This study shows that both large- and local-scale climate drivers likely play a role in the observed seasonality of NDVI trends.


Bieniek, A. P., U. S. Bhatt, D. A. Walker, M. K. Raynolds, J. C. Comiso, H. E. Epstein, J. E. Pinzon, C. J. Tucker, R. L. Thoman, H. Tran, N. Mölders, M. Steele, J. Zhang, and W. Ermold. 2015. Climate Drivers Linked to Changing Seasonality of Alaska Coastal Tundra Vegetation Productivity. Earth Interactions. 19(19): DOI: doi: