The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Default user image.

Jonathan Seaquist

Head of department

Default user image.

The effect of the temporal resolution of NDVI data on season onset dates and trends across Canadian broadleaf forests


  • Angela Kross
  • Richard Fernandes
  • Jonathan Seaquist
  • Elisabeth Beaubien

Summary, in English

Satellite remote sensing has the potential to contribute to plant phenology monitoring at spatial and temporal scales relevant for regional and global scale studies. Historically, temporal composites of satellite data, ranging from 8 days to 16 days, have been used as a starting point for satellite-derived phenology data sets. In this study we assess how the temporal resolution of such composites affects the estimation of the start of season (SOS) by: 1) calibrating a relationship between satellite derived SOS with in situ leaf unfolding (LU) of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) across Canada and 2) quantifying the sensitivity of calibrated satellite SOS estimates and trends, over Canadian broadleaf forests, to the temporal resolution of NDVI data. SOS estimates and trends derived from daily NDVI data were compared to SOS estimates and trends derived from multiday NDVI composites that retain the exact date of the maximum NDVI value or that assume the midpoint of the multiday interval as the observation date. In situ observations of LU dates were acquired from the PlantWatch Canada network. A new Canadian database of cloud and snow screened daily 1-km resolution National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advanced very high resolution radiometer surface reflectance images was used as input satellite data. The mean absolute errors of SOS dates with respect to in situ LU dates ranged between 13 and 40 days. SOS estimates from NDVI composites that retain the exact date of the maximum NDVI value had smaller errors (similar to 13 to 20 days). The sensitivity analysis reinforced these findings: SOS estimates from NDVI composites that use the exact date had smaller absolute deviations from the LU date (0 to 5 days) than the SOS estimates from NDVI composites that use the midpoint (-2 to -27 days). The SOS trends between 1985 and 2007 were not sensitive to the temporal resolution or compositing methods. However, SOS trends at individual ecozones showed significant differences with the SOS trends from daily NDVI data (Taiga plains and the Pacific maritime zones). Overall, our results suggest that satellite based estimates of vegetation green-up dates should preferably use sub-sampled NDVI composites that include the exact observation date of the maximum NDVI to minimize errors in both. SOS estimates and SOS trend analyses. For trend analyses alone, any of the compositing methods could be used, preferably with composite intervals of less than 28 days. This is an important finding, as it suggests that existing long-term 10-day or 15-day NDVI composites could be used for SOS trend analyses over broadleaf forests in Canada or similar areas. Future studies will take advantage of the growing in situ phenology networks to improve the validation of satellite derived green-up dates. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year







Remote Sensing of Environment





Document type

Journal article




  • Physical Geography


  • Phenology
  • Leaf unfolding
  • Aspen




  • ISSN: 0034-4257