Cropland land surface phenology and seasonality in East Africa: Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Sudan

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Woubet G. Alemu, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, United States and Geoffrey M Henebry, South Dakota State University, Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence, Brookings, SD, United States
Most people in East Africa depend on rainfed agriculture. Rainfall in the region has been decreasing recently and is highly variable in space and time leading to high food insecurity. A comprehensive understanding of the regional cropland dynamics is therefore needed. Land surface phenology and land surface seasonality have important roles in monitoring cropland dynamics in a region with sparse coverage of in situ climatic and biophysical observations. However, commonly used optical satellite data are often degraded by cloud cover, aerosols, and dust and they are restricted to daytime observations. Here we used near-daily passive microwave (PM) data at 25 km spatial resolution from a series of microwave radiometers—AMSR-E, FengYun3B/MWRI, AMSR2—to study cropland dynamics for 2003-2013 in three important grain production areas of East Africa: Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Sudan. PM data can be collected through clouds and at night. Based on Google Earth imagery, we identified several cropland areas corresponding to PM grid cells. Rainfall from TRMM and atmospheric water vapor (V) from PM data displayed temporal patterns that were unimodal in Ethiopia and South Sudan, but bimodal in Tanzania. We fitted convex quadratic models to link growing season increments of V and vegetation optical depth (VOD) to accumulated V (AV). The models yielded high coefficients of determination (r2 ≥0.8) and phenometrics calculated from the parameter coefficients. Peak rainfall lagged peak V, but preceded peak VOD. Growing degree-days (GDD), calculated from the PM air temperature data, displayed a weaker bimodal seasonality in which the lowest values occurred during the peak rainy season, due to the cooling effect of latent heat flux and coupled with higher reflection of insolation by the cloud deck. V as a function of GDD displays quasi-periodic behavior. Drier sites in the region displayed larger (smaller) intra-annual dynamic range of V (GDD) compared to the moister sites.