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Spring through fall, cities are greener longer than neighboring rural regions

changed Earth's ecosystems. In an attempt to determine the effect that the urban heat island phenomenon has on the growing season for urban vegetation, the BU team used satellite data to evaluate when vegetation in urban and rural settings first became green and then when it entered dormancy, thereby ending one season's growing cycle.

The researchers calculated the onsets of vegetation greenup and dormancy for about 70 urban areas using so-called NBAR data gathered between January 1 and December 31, 2001, by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The MODIS instrument, aboard NASA satellites Terra and Aqua, gathers data on Earth's entire surface every one to two days. The team used "nighttime lights" data and MODIS data to determine the size of the urban areas studied.

To determine the radiating effect of urban heat islands on vegetation in surrounding regions, the researchers assessed greenup data in six, two-to-three kilometer zones demarcated from urban edges. Within these zones, to a total distance of 20 km., the scientists measured land-surface temperatures and vegetation greenup responses.

They found that greenup occurs earliest in urban areas but that urban climate shows a substantial influence on vegetation growing up to 10 km. beyond the edge of urban land cover. This greenup difference is especially pronounced in the Washington, DCPhiladelphiaNew York City corridor, where urban greenup occurs about 5.5 days and 8.7 days earlier than in zones 0 3 km. and 8 10 km., respectively, from the urban edge. In all, they found the strength of the urban influence decreases with distance from the perimeter of urban land cover.

Patterns in greenup onset show that urbanrural differences in vegetation response are a function of land surface temperatures, showing a significant linear trend between change in greenup and change in temperature. The trend generally shows that greenup advances three days for eac
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Contact: Ann Marie Menting
amenting@bu.edu
617-358-1240
Boston University
29-Jul-2004


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