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Landsat, continuity, reflectance, Ndvi, OLI, ETM+


At over 40 years, the Landsat satellites provide the longest temporal record of space-based land surface observations, and the successful 2013 launch of the Landsat-8 is continuing this legacy. Ideally, the Landsat data record should be consistent over the Landsat sensor series. The Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) has improved calibration, signal to noise characteristics, higher 12-bit radiometric resolution, and spectrally narrower wavebands than the previous Landsat-7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM +). Reflective wavelength differences between the two Landsat sensors depend also on the surface reflectance and atmospheric state which are difficult to model comprehensively. The orbit and sensing geometries of the Landsat-8 OLI and Landsat-7 ETM + provide swath edge overlapping paths sensed only one day apart. The overlap regions are sensed in alternating backscatter and forward scattering orientations so Landsat bi-directional reflectance effects are evident but approximately balanced between the two sensors when large amounts of time series data are considered. Taking advantage of this configuration a total of 59 million 30 m corresponding sensor observations extracted from 6317 Landsat-7 ETM + and Landsat-8 OLI images acquired over three winter and three summer months for all the conterminous United States (CONUS) are compared. Results considering different stages of cloud and saturation filtering, and filtering to reduce one day surface state differences, demonstrate the importance of appropriate per-pixel data screening. Top of atmosphere (TOA) and atmospherically corrected surface reflectance for the spectrally corresponding visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands, and derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), are compared and their differences quantified. On average the OLI TOA reflectance is greater than the ETM + TOA reflectance for all bands, with greatest differences in the near-infrared (NIR) and the shortwave infrared bands due to the quite different spectral response functions between the sensors. The atmospheric correction reduces the mean difference in the NIR and shortwave infrared but increases the mean difference in the visible bands. Regardless of whether TOA or surface reflectance are used to generate NDVI, on average, for vegetated soil and vegetation surfaces (0 ≤ NDVI ≤ 1), the OLI NDVI is greater than the ETM + NDVI. Statistical functions to transform between the comparable sensor bands and sensor NDVI values are presented so that the user community may apply them in their own research to improve temporal continuity between the Landsat-7 ETM + and Landsat-8 OLI sensor data. The transformation functions were developed using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and were fit quite reliably (r2 values > 0.7 for the reflectance data and > 0.9 for the NDVI data, p-values < 0.0001).

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Remote Sensing of Environment



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This article was published in Remote Sensing of Environment (2016) 185; doi: