Current methods for studying the genetic basis of adaptation evaluate genetic associations with ecologically relevant traits or single environmental variables, under the implicit assumption that natural selection imposes correlations between phenotypes, environments and genotypes. In practice, observed trait and environmental data are manifestations of unknown selective forces and are only indirectly associated with adaptive genetic variation. In theory, improved estimation of these forces could enable more powerful detection of loci under selection. Here we present an approach in which we approximate adaptive variation by modeling phenotypes as a function of the environment and using the predicted trait in multivariate and univariate genome-wide association analysis (GWAS). Based on computer simulations and published flowering time data from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, we find that environmentally predicted traits lead to higher recovery of functional loci in multivariate GWAS and are more strongly correlated to allele frequencies at adaptive loci than individual environmental variables. Our results provide an example of the use of environmental data to obtain independent and meaningful information on adaptive genetic variation.