Matt Dannenberg

Assistant Professor
PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
308 Jessup Hall
Office Hours: 
Mondays from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
or by appointment
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
global change ecology, terrestrial carbon and water cycles, climate variability and change, remote sensing, dendrochronology

Personal Website:

Google Scholar: 

I study past and present global change and its impacts on Earth’s ecosystems, at scales ranging from the regional (with a focus on dryland ecosystems of the western United States) to the global. The tools I use include remote sensing, dendrochronology (the science of tree rings), and empirical/process-based modeling.

Most of my research investigates the impacts of climate variability/change on the growth, phenology and carbon uptake of terrestrial vegetation. A particular focus is understanding the effects of coupled ocean-atmosphere circulation systems, such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, on the timing and magnitude of vegetation activity, which may allow forecasting of ecological processes months before the growing season even starts. An additional emphasis is understanding how the seasonality and variability of precipitation affects ecosystem processes, particularly in the context of a warmer and more variable hydroclimate.

In addition to my work on climate–ecosystem interactions, I also use and develop methods for monitoring land use and land cover change with remote sensing, with the goal of separating climate influences on ecosystems from the effects of land cover composition. To date, most of this work has focused on the southeastern United States, where ongoing changes in forest cover and composition are rapidly changing the climate, hydrology, and ecosystem services of the region. However, I am also interested in using these methods for other systems and applications, such as monitoring woody encroachment in arid and semiarid regions, modeling health effects of land cover change, and quantifying the impacts of surface mining operations on land-atmosphere CO2 exchange.

Prospective Graduate Students: 

I am looking for MA or PhD students who are interested in global change ecology, dryland or forest ecosystem ecology, and climate variability/change. Currently, I have a fully-funded research assistant position available focused on using tree rings to assess long-term changes in climate and streamflow of the Missouri River Basin. Other areas of research could include:

  • Assessing responses of carbon and water fluxes to global environmental change (e.g., changes in temperature, soil moisture, vapor pressure deficit, and land use/land cover change)
  • Forecasting primary production, evapotranspiration, and land surface phenology based on ocean-atmosphere circulation systems
  • Developing models of carbon and water fluxes based on remote sensing and/or tree rings
  • Reconstructing past environmental change using long-term tree-ring and climate data networks

In addition to the above research interests, students should have, or be interested in developing, skills in programming/statistical computing (in R, MATLAB, Python, etc.), remote sensing, climate data analysis, or dendrochronology.

Selected Publications: 

Zhang, F., J. A. Biederman, M. P. Dannenberg, D. Yan, S. C. Reed, and W. K. Smith (2021), Five Decades of Observed Daily Precipitation Reveal Longer and More Variable Drought Events Across Much of the Western United States, Geophysical Research Letters, 48, e2020GL092293.

Dannenberg, M. P., W. K. Smith, Y. Zhang, C. Song, D. N. Huntzinger, and D. J. P. Moore (2021), Large‐Scale Reductions in Terrestrial Carbon Uptake Following Central Pacific El Niño, Geophysical Research Letters, 48, e2020GL092367.

Dannenberg, M. P., C. Song, E. K. Wise, N. Pederson, and D. A. Bishop (2020), Delineating environmental stresses to primary production of U.S. forests from tree rings: Effects of climate seasonality, soil, and topography, Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 125, e2019JG005499. doi:10.1029/2019JG005499.

Dannenberg, M. P., X. Wang, D. Yan, and W. K. Smith (2020), Phenological characteristics of global ecosystems based on optical, fluorescence, and microwave remote sensing (invited), Remote Sensing, 12(4), 671. doi:10.3390/rs12040671.

Hakkenberg, C. R., M. P. Dannenberg, C. Song, and G. Vinci (2020), Automated continuous fields prediction from Landsat time series: Application to fractional impervious cover, IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, 17(1), 132-136. doi:10.1109/LGRS.2019.2915320.

Dannenberg, M. P., E. K. Wise, and W. K. Smith (2019), Reduced tree growth in the semiarid United States due to asymmetric responses to intensifying precipitation extremes, Science Advances 5(10), eaaw0667. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aaw0667.

Smith, W. K.*, M. P. Dannenberg*, et al. (2019), Remote sensing of dryland ecosystem structure and function: Progress, challenges, and opportunities (invited), Remote Sensing of Environment 233, 111401. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2019.111401. [*Smith and Dannenberg contributed equally]

Zhang, Y., M. P. Dannenberg, T. Hwang, and C. Song (2019), El Niño–Southern Oscillation-induced variability of terrestrial gross primary production during the satellite era, Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 124(8), 2419-2431. doi:10.1029/2019JG005117.

Wise, E. K. and M. P. Dannenberg (2019), Climate factors leading to asymmetric extreme capture in the tree-ring record, Geophysical Research Letters 46, 3408-3416. doi:10.1029/2019GL082295.

Dannenberg, M. P., C. Song, and C. R. Hakkenberg (2018), A long-term, consistent land cover history of the southeastern United States, Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 84(9), 559-568. doi:10.14358/PERS.84.9.559.

Dannenberg, M. P., E. K. Wise, M. Janko, T. Hwang, and W. K. Smith (2018), Atmospheric teleconnection influence on North American land surface phenology, Environmental Research Letters 13(3), 034029. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaa85a.

Dannenberg, M. P. and E. K. Wise (2017), Shifting Pacific storm tracks as stressors to ecosystems of western North America, Global Change Biology 23(11), 4896-4906. doi:10.1111/gcb.13748.

Wise, E. K. and M. P. Dannenberg (2017), Reconstructed storm tracks reveal three centuries of changing moisture delivery to North America, Science Advances 3, e1602263. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1602263.

Dannenberg, M. P., C. R. Hakkenberg, and C. Song (2016), Consistent classification of Landsat time series with an improved automatic adaptive signature generalization algorithm, Remote Sensing 8(8), 691. doi:10.3390/rs8080691.

Dannenberg, M. P. and E. K. Wise (2016), Seasonal climate signals from multiple tree-ring metrics: a case study of Pinus ponderosa in the upper Columbia River basin, Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121, 1178-1189. doi:10.1002/2015JG003155.

Dannenberg, M. P., C. Song, T. Hwang, and E. K. Wise (2015), Empirical evidence of El Niño—Southern Oscillation influence on land surface phenology and productivity in the western United States, Remote Sensing of Environment 159, 167-180. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2014.11.026.

Wise, E. K. and M. P. Dannenberg (2014), Persistence of pressure patterns over North America and the North Pacific since AD 1500, Nature Communications 5, 4912. doi:10.1038/ncomms5912.