Isolating the observed influence of vegetation variability on the climate of La Plata River basin

Divyansh Chug, Francina Dominguez

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This work aims to isolate and quantify the local and remote biogeophysical influences of slowly varying vegetation variability on the climate of La Plata basin (LPB) in the austral spring season (September- November) using observational records. Past studies have shown strong land-atmosphere coupling in LPB during this season. The analysis uses a 34-yr record (1981-2014) of the modified enhanced vegetation index (EVI2) from the NASA Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) Vegetation Index and Phenology dataset and the third-generation normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies. The dominant patterns of vegetation index variability in space and time are assessed using empirical orthogonal function/principal component analysis over the LPB. The dominant mode in the austral spring is a vegetation dipole, with greening (browning) or positive (negative) vegetation index anomalies in the northeastern (southwestern) part of the basin. Using the stepwise generalized equilibrium feedback assessment (SGEFA), the effect of the vegetation variability on the atmosphere is then isolated. The dominant mode of LPB vegetation variability in austral spring is related to warmer temperatures in the southwest LPB and enhanced precipitation over the central and southern parts of the basin. A mechanism is proposed for the increase in latent heat flux and cooler temperatures in the northeastern LPB due to greening, and the increase in sensible heat flux, warmer temperatures, and decrease in surface pressure in southwestern LPB due to browning. The geostrophic response to this induced pressure gradient leads to anomalous northerly enhancement of moisture-laden winds, deeper penetration of moisture into LPB, and increased precipitation over the central and southern parts of the basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4473-4490
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Land use
  • Principal components analysis
  • Satellite observations
  • South America
  • Vegetation-atmosphere interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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