Seasonality of biological and physical systems as indicators of climatic variation and change

Climatic Change
By: , and 



Evidence-based responses to climate change by society require operational and sustained information including biophysical indicator systems that provide up-to-date measures of trends and patterns against historical baselines. Two key components linking anthropogenic climate change to impacts on socio-ecological systems are the periodic inter- and intra-annual variations in physical climate systems (seasonality) and in plant and animal life cycles (phenology). We describe a set of national indicators that reflect sub-seasonal to seasonal drivers and responses of terrestrial physical and biological systems to climate change and variability at the national scale. Proposed indicators and metrics include seasonality of surface climate conditions (e.g., frost and freeze dates and durations), seasonality of freeze/thaw in freshwater systems (e.g., timing of stream runoff and durations of lake/river ice), seasonality in ecosystem disturbances (e.g., wildfire season timing and duration), seasonality in vegetated land surfaces (e.g., green-up and brown-down of landscapes), and seasonality of organismal life-history stages (e.g., timings of bird migration). Recommended indicators have strong linkages to variable and changing climates, include abiotic and biotic responses and feedback mechanisms, and are sufficiently simple to facilitate communication to broad audiences and stakeholders interested in understanding and adapting to climate change.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seasonality of biological and physical systems as indicators of climatic variation and change
Series title Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-020-02894-0
Volume 163
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, National Phenology Network
Description 17 p.
First page 1755
Last page 1771
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