How Important is Vegetation Phenology for European Climate and Heat Waves?

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It has been hypothesized that vegetation phenology may play an important role for the midlatitude climate. This study investigates the impact of interannual and intraseasonal variations in phenology on European climate using regional climate model simulations. In addition, it assesses the relative importance of interannual variations in vegetation phenology and soil moisture on European summer climate.It is found that drastic phenological changes have a smaller effect on mean summer and spring climate than extreme changes in soil moisture (roughly 1/4 of the temperature anomaly induced by soil moisture changes). However, the impact of phenological anomalies during heat waves is found to be more important. Generally, late and weak greening has amplifying effects and early and strong greening has dampening effects on heat waves; however, regional variations are found. The experiments suggest that in the extreme hot 2003 (western and central Europe) and 2007 (southeastern Europe) summers the decrease in leaf area index amplified the heat wave peaks by about 0.5 degrees C for daily maximum temperatures (about half of the effect induced by soil moisture deficit). In contrast to earlier hypotheses, no anomalous early greening in spring 2003 is seen in the phenological dataset employed here. Hence, the results indicate that vegetation feedbacks amplified the 2003 heat wave but were not responsible for its initiation. In conclusion, the results suggest that phenology has a limited effect on European mean summer climate, but its impact can be as important as that induced by soil moisture anomalies in the context of specific extreme events.
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Lorenz, Ruth
Davin, E
Lawrence, D
Stockli, R
Senaviratne, S
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty
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