The annual cycle of vegetation growth may be altered in response to climate changes affecting ecosystem dynamics. However, our understanding of vegetation seasonality is mostly limited to the mechanisms and attributes of phenological events, such as spring emergence and fall senescence. Here we have investigated the seasonal evolution of vegetation growth from winter dormancy to summer maturity of four forest types in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperate and boreal forests for 1982–2011. The present study assesses large-scale variations in the vegetation green-up rate (VGrate) and its connection to temperature variability using remotely sensed normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and surface air temperature. The average of the VGrate of the analysis period increases with latitude, which indicates that the canopy develops more rapidly from dormancy to maturity for vegetation in higher-latitude or colder climate zones. VGrate and precedent temperature also show a positive correlation (r) over temperate and boreal forests (67% of the forest area in the NH), indicating that increased temperatures lead to faster canopy development within the same climate zone or latitude band. Responsiveness of VGrate to temperature variability shows that despite the same magnitude of local temperature variability during extremely cold and warm years, the magnitude of VGrate acceleration in warm years (0.07 (15-day)! 1) is larger than the VGrate deceleration in cold years (!0.03 (15-day)!1), suggesting that the response of VGrate to temperature variability is nonlinear. Among the four forest types examined in this study, the nonlinear responses are most clearly observed in deciduous broadleaf forests indicating that forest composition may regulate the large-scale response of canopy development to temperature variability. Overall, our results suggest that anomalous seasonal warming will significantly affect canopy developments over wide deciduous forest areas.