Global Vegetation Modeling With Pre-Trained Weather Transformers (Papers Track) Spotlight

Pascal Janetzky (University Wuerzburg); Florian Gallusser (Universität Würzburg); Simon Hentschel (Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg); Andreas Hotho (University of Wuerzburg); Anna Krause (Universität Würzburg, Department of Computer Science, CHair X Data Science)

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Ecosystems & Biodiversity Climate Science & Modeling Data Mining


Accurate vegetation models can produce further insights into the complex inter-action between vegetation activity and ecosystem processes. Previous research has established that long-term trends and short-term variability of temperature and precipitation affect vegetation activity. Motivated by the recent success of Transformer-based Deep Learning models for medium-range weather forecasting, we adapt the publicly available pre-trained FourCastNet to model vegetation activity while accounting for the short-term dynamics of climate variability. We investigate how the learned global representation of the atmosphere’s state can be transferred to model the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Our model globally estimates vegetation activity at a resolution of 0.25◦ while relying only on meteorological data. We demonstrate that leveraging pre-trained weather models improves the NDVI estimates compared to learning an NDVI model from scratch. Additionally, we compare our results to other recent data-driven NDVI modeling approaches from machine learning and ecology literature. We further provide experimental evidence on how much data and training time is necessary to turn FourCastNet into an effective vegetation model. Code and models are available at

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