Validating satellite phenology through intensive ground observation and landscape scaling in a mixed seasonal forest

Liang Liang, Mark D. Schwartz, Songlin Fei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Phenology is a key component of monitoring terrestrial ecosystem variations in response to global climate change. Satellite-measured land surface phenology (LSP) has been widely used to assess large scale phenological patterns and processes. However, the accuracy of LSP is rarely validated with spatially compatible field data due to the significant spatiotemporal scale mismatch. In this study, we employ intensive field observations specifically designed to address this deficiency. High density/frequency spring phenological observations were collected in a mixed seasonal forest during 2008 and 2009. A landscape up-scaling approach was used to derive landscape phenology (LP) indices from plot-level observations in order to validate Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) based LSP. Results show that the MODIS Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) derived start of spring season (SOS) measure was able to predict LP full bud burst date with absolute errors less than two days. In addition, LSP derived SOS captured inter-annual variations and spatial differences that agreed with ground observations. Comparison of complete time series of LP and LSP revealed that fundamental differences exist between the two observation means, e.g., LP development had increased influence on LSP during the course of spring onset. Therefore, inferring continuous LP processes directly from LSP measures could be problematic. However, using LSP derived from techniques such as logistic curve modeling for extracting seasonal markers appears more promising. This study contributes to a more explicit understanding of the linkages between remotely sensed phenology and traditionally observed (ground-based) phenology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-157
Number of pages15
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge those who contributed to the field campaigns and phenology data collection: Rachael Dearing, Audrey Fusco, Alan Halfen, Jonathan Hanes, Joshua Hatzis, Patricia O'Kane, and Virginia Seamster. Jonathan Hanes also contributed to field work organization and data entry. Robert B. Cook and Suresh-Kumar Santhana-Vannan from ORNL DAAC provided valuable help in using MODIS data. Changshan Wu provided constructive advice on data analysis. NASA supplied the QuickBird and IKONOS images. We also thank six anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This project was supported by the National Science Foundation under grants BCS-0649380 and BCS-0703360 .


  • EOS land validation core sites
  • Land surface phenology
  • Landscape phenology
  • Phenology
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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