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Numerous land surface phenology (LSP) datasets have been produced from various coarse resolution satellite data and different detection algorithms from regional to global scales. In contrast to field-observed phenological events that are defined by clearly evident organismal changes with biophysical meaning, current approaches to detecting transitions in LSP only determine the timing of variations in remotely sensed observations of surface greenness. Since activities to bridge LSP and field observations are challenging and limited, our understanding of the biophysical characteristics of LSP transitions is poor. Therefore, we set out to explore the scaling effects on LSP transitions at the nominal start of growing season (SOS) by comparing detections from coarse resolution data with those from finer resolution imagery. Specifically, using a hybrid piecewise-logistic-model-based LSP detection algorithm, we detected SOS in the agricultural core of the United States—central Iowa—at two scales: first, at a finer scale (30 m) using reflectance generated by fusing MODIS data with Landsat 8 OLI data (OLI SOS) and, second, at a coarser resolution of 500 m using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) observations. The VIIRS SOS data were compared with OLI SOS that had been aggregated using a percentile approach at various degrees of heterogeneity. The results revealed the complexities of SOS detections and the scaling effects that are latent at the coarser resolution. Specifically, OLI SOS variation defined using standard deviation (SD) was as large as 40 days within a highly spatially heterogeneous VIIRS pixel; whereas, SD could be < 10 days for a more homogeneous set of pixels. Furthermore, the VIIRS SOS detections equaled the OLI SOS (with an absolute difference less than one day) in N60% of OLI pixels within a homogeneous VIIRS pixel, but in < 20% of OLI pixels within a spatially heterogeneous VIIRS pixel. Moreover, the SOS detections in a coarser resolution pixel reflected the timing at which vegetation greenup onset occurred in 30% of area, despite variation in SOS heterogeneities. This result suggests that (1) the SOS detections at coarser resolution are controlled more by the earlier SOS pixels at the finer resolution rather than by the later SOS pixels, and (2) it should be possible to well simulate the coarser SOS value by selecting the timing at 30th percentile SOS at the finer resolution. Finally, it was demonstrated that in homogeneous areas the VIIRS SOS was comparable with OLI SOS with an overall difference of < 5 days.

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Remote Sensing of Environment



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