Global relationships among traditional reflectance vegetation indices (NDVI T...

Joiner, J., Y. Yoshida, M. Anderson, T. Holmes, C. Hain, R. H. Reichle, R. Koster, E. Middleton, and F. Zeng (2018), Global relationships among traditional reflectance vegetation indices (NDVI T and NDII), evapotranspiration (ET), and soil moisture variability on weekly timescales, Remote Sensing of Environment, 219, 339-352, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2018.10.020.

Monitoring the effects of water availability on vegetation globally using satellites is important for applications such as drought early warning, precision agriculture, and food security as well as for more broadly understanding relationships between water and carbon cycles. In this global study, we examine how quickly several satellite-based indicators, assumed to have relationships with water availability, respond, on timescales of days to weeks, in comparison with variations in root-zone soil moisture (RZM) that extends to about 1 m depth. The satellite indicators considered are the normalized difference vegetation and infrared indices (NDVI and NDII, respectively) derived from reflectances obtained with moderately wide (20–40 nm) spectral bands in the visible and near-infrared (NIR) and evapotranspiration (ET) estimated from thermal infrared observations and normalized by a reference ET. NDVI is primarily sensitive to chlorophyll contributions and vegetation structure while NDII may contain additional information on water content in leaves and canopy. ET includes both the loss of root zone soil water through transpiration (modulated by stomatal conductance) as well as evaporation from bare soil. We find that variations of these satellite-based drought indicators on time scales of days to weeks have significant correlations with those of RZM in the same water-limited geographical locations that are dominated by grasslands, shrublands, and savannas whose root systems are generally contained within the 1 m RZM layer. Normalized ET interannual variations show generally a faster response to water deficits and enhancements as compared with those of NDVI and NDII, particularly in sparsely vegetated regions.

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