Tea (Camellia sinensis
) is one of the most dominant economic plants in China and plays an important role in agricultural economic benefits. Spring tea is the most popular drink due to Chinese drinking habits. Although the global temperature is generally warming, spring frost damage (SFD) to tea plants still occurs from time to time, and severely restricts the production and quality of spring tea. Therefore, monitoring and evaluating the impact of SFD to tea plants in a timely and precise manner is a significant and urgent task for scientists and tea producers in China. The region designated as the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River (MLRYR) in China is a major tea plantation area producing small tea leaves and low shrubs. This region was selected to study SFD to tea plants using meteorological observations and remotely sensed products. Comparative analysis between minimum air temperature (Tmin
) and two MODIS nighttime land surface temperature (LST) products at six pixel-window scales was used to determine the best suitable product and spatial scale. Results showed that the LST nighttime product derived from MYD11A1 data at the 3 × 3 pixel window resolution was the best proxy for daily minimum air temperature. A Tmin
estimation model was established using this dataset and digital elevation model (DEM) data, employing the standard lapse rate of air temperature with elevation. Model validation with 145,210 ground-based Tmin
observations showed that the accuracy of estimated Tmin
was acceptable with a relatively high coefficient of determination (R2
= 0.841), low root mean square error (RMSE = 2.15 °C) and mean absolute error (MAE = 1.66 °C), and reasonable normalized RMSE (NRMSE = 25.4%) and Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency (EF = 0.12), with significantly improved consistency of LST and Tmin
estimation. Based on the Tmin
estimation model, three major cooling episodes recorded in the "Yearbook of Meteorological Disasters in China" in spring 2006 were accurately identified, and several highlighted regions in the first two cooling episodes were also precisely captured. This study confirmed that estimating Tmin
based on MYD11A1 nighttime products and DEM is a useful method for monitoring and evaluating SFD to tea plants in the MLRYR. Furthermore, this method precisely identified the spatial characteristics and distribution of SFD and will therefore be helpful for taking effective preventative measures to mitigate the economic losses resulting from frost damage.
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