Articles | Volume 14, issue 21
Research article
07 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 07 Nov 2017

Impacts of temperature extremes on European vegetation during the growing season

Lukas Baumbach, Jonatan F. Siegmund, Magdalena Mittermeier, and Reik V. Donner

Abstract. Temperature is a key factor controlling plant growth and vitality in the temperate climates of the mid-latitudes like in vast parts of the European continent. Beyond the effect of average conditions, the timings and magnitudes of temperature extremes play a particularly crucial role, which needs to be better understood in the context of projected future rises in the frequency and/or intensity of such events. In this work, we employ event coincidence analysis (ECA) to quantify the likelihood of simultaneous occurrences of extremes in daytime land surface temperature anomalies (LSTAD) and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). We perform this analysis for entire Europe based upon remote sensing data, differentiating between three periods corresponding to different stages of plant development during the growing season. In addition, we analyze the typical elevation and land cover type of the regions showing significantly large event coincidences rates to identify the most severely affected vegetation types. Our results reveal distinct spatio-temporal impact patterns in terms of extraordinarily large co-occurrence rates between several combinations of temperature and NDVI extremes. Croplands are among the most frequently affected land cover types, while elevation is found to have only a minor effect on the spatial distribution of corresponding extreme weather impacts. These findings provide important insights into the vulnerability of European terrestrial ecosystems to extreme temperature events and demonstrate how event-based statistics like ECA can provide a valuable perspective on environmental nexuses.

Short summary
Temperature extremes play a crucial role for vegetation growth and vitality in vast parts of the European continent. Here, we study the likelihood of simultaneous occurrences of extremes in daytime land surface temperatures and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) for three main periods during the growing season. Our results reveal a particularly high vulnerability of croplands to temperature extremes, while other vegetation types are considerably less affected.
Final-revised paper