Vegetation responses to precipitation and temperature: A spatiotemporal Analysis of ecoregions in the Colorado River Basin

Julio Cañón, Francina Domínguez, Juan B. Valdes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predicting vegetation response to precipitation and temperature anomalies, particularly during droughts, is of great importance in semi-arid regions, because ecosystem and hydrologic processes depend on vegetation conditions. This article studies vegetation responses to precipitation and temperature in 10 ecological regions within the semi-arid Colorado River Basin (CRB). The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) database and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and temperature series from Parameter-Elevation Regressions on Independent Slope Models (PRISM) database were jointly evaluated for the period 1986-2006, using Multichannel Singular Spectrum Analysis (MSSA) to determine common oscillations and significant lags in vegetation response to seasonal and annual precipitation and temperature. Results show high correlations between lagged SPI series and standardized NDVI: From 1-month lag in the warm deserts (Sonora, Chihuahua and Mojave) to two months in the Temperate Sierras and Semi-Arid Highlands and three months in the Colorado and Arizona/New Mexico Plateaus and the Western Cordillera. Temperature anomalies are negatively correlated to NDVI in the lower CRB and positively correlated in the upper CRB. Notably, we see a basin-wide response to SPI anomalies, and consequently, the identified latitudinal and altitudinal lags between SPI and NDVI will allow an early, basin- wide assessment of lagged vegetation responses to precipitation along the CRB ecoregions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5665-5687
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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