MODIS vegetation metrics as indicators of hydrological response in watersheds of California Mediterranean-type climate zones

Dillon T. Fitch, Douglas A. Stow, Allen S. Hope, Sergio Rey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Vegetation characteristics of a watershed can be important in estimating hydrological response variables (HRVs) such as streamflow (Q), evapotranspiration (ET), and river yield (Q/P). Quantifying the relationship between satellite-derived vegetation metrics and hydrological response to precipitation (P) has the potential to facilitate prediction of HRVs for ungauged watersheds, and/or aid in the assessment of watershed similarity as an initial phase of hydrological regionalization. The utility of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite data to estimate HRVs of watersheds at the regional scale (southern and central California) is tested in this study. An exhaustive statistical regression analysis was conducted to quantify the relationships between MODIS vegetation metrics and HRVs using both ordinary least squares and spatially varying parameter models. Additionally a confirmatory analysis was conducted to test the effect precipitation and potential evaporation have on the exploratory regression results. Results from both the exploratory and confirmatory analyses suggest that (1) while there are limitations in the water balance approach to estimating ET (errors associated with changes in storage and meteorological data are unknown), moderate statistical relationships exist between MODIS vegetation metrics and HRVs; (2) these relationships are heavily influenced by vegetation-precipitation relationships and general precipitation magnitudes; (3) relationships between MODIS metrics and precipitation/HRVs are strongest when drought conditions prevail; and (4) LAI has the strongest relationship with precipitation and HRVs compared to other MODIS vegetation metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2513-2523
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • California
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Mediterranean-type climate
  • Regression modeling
  • Watersheds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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