Vegetation dynamics within the North American monsoon region

Giovanni Forzieri, Fabio Castelli, Enrique Vivoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The North American monsoon (NAM) leads to a large increase in summer rainfall and a seasonal change in vegetation in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Understanding the interactions between NAM rainfall and vegetation dynamics is essential for improved climate and hydrologic prediction. In this work, the authors analyze long-term vegetation dynamics over the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) tier I domain (20°-35°N, 105°-115°W) using normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) semimonthly composites at 8-km resolution from 1982 to 2006. The authors derive ecoregions with similar vegetation dynamics using principal component analysis and cluster identification. Based on ecoregion and pixel-scale analyses, this study quantifies the seasonal and interannual vegetation variations, their dependence on geographic position and terrain attributes, and the presence of long-term trends through a set of phenological vegetation metrics. Results reveal that seasonal biomass productivity, as captured by the timeintegrated NDVI (TINDVI), is an excellent means to synthesize vegetation dynamics. High TINDVI occurs for ecosystems with a short period of intense greening tuned to the NAM or with a prolonged period of moderate greenness continuing after the NAM. These cases represent different plant strategies (deciduous versus evergreen) that can be adjusted along spatial gradients to cope with seasonal water availability. Longterm trends in TINDVI may also indicate changing conditions favoring ecosystems that intensively useNAM rainfall for rapid productivity, as opposed to delayed and moderate greening. A persistence of these trends could potentially result in the spatial reorganization of ecosystems in the NAM region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1763-1783
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Interannual variability
  • Monsoons
  • North America
  • Orographic effects
  • Principle component analysis
  • Satellite observations
  • Seasonal variability
  • Vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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