EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Vegetation responses to climate extremes recorded by remotely sensed atmospheric formaldehyde

Catherine Morfopoulos1,2, Jean-François Müller3, Trissevgeni Stavrakou3, Maite Bauwens3, Isabelle De Smedt3, Pierre Friedlingstein4, Ian Colin Prentice1,5,6, and Pierre Regnier2
Catherine Morfopoulos et al.
  • 1Imperial College of London, Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park), Berks, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (
  • 2Department of Geoscience, Environment & Society, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 3Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium
  • 4College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  • 5Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 6Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia

Accurate monitoring of vegetation stress is required for better modelling and forecasting of primary production, in a world where heatwaves and droughts are expected to become increasingly prevalent. Variability in formaldehyde (HCHO) concentrations in the troposphere is dominated by local emissions of short-lived biogenic (BVOC) and pyrogenic volatile organic compounds. BVOCs are emitted by plants in a rapid protective response to abiotic stress, mediated by the energetic status of leaves (the excess of reducing power when photosynthetic light and dark reactions are decoupled, as occurs when stomata close in response to water stress). Emissions also increase exponentially with leaf temperature. New analytical methods for the detection of spatiotemporally contiguous extremes in remote-sensing data are applied here to satellite-derived atmospheric HCHO columns. BVOC emissions are shown to play a central role in the formation of the largest positive HCHO anomalies. Although vegetation stress can be captured by various remotely sensed quantities, spaceborne HCHO emerges as the most consistent recorder of vegetation responses to the largest climate extremes, especially in forested regions.

How to cite: Morfopoulos, C., Müller, J.-F., Stavrakou, T., Bauwens, M., De Smedt, I., Friedlingstein, P., Prentice, I. C., and Regnier, P.: Vegetation responses to climate extremes recorded by remotely sensed atmospheric formaldehyde, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8331,, 2021.

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