The Availability of Cloud-free Landsat ETM+ Data Over the Conterminous United States and Globally
The U.S. Landsat satellite series provide the longest dedicated land remote sensing data record with a balance between requirements for localized high spatial resolution studies and global monitoring. As with any other optical wavelength satellite sensor, cloud contamination greatly compromises image usability for land surface studies. Additionally, selective scene acquisition due to payload, ground station and mission cost constraints further reduces Landsat image availability. Since the 1999 launch of the Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) a Longterm Acquisition Plan (LTAP) has been used to anticipate user requests with the goal of annually refreshing a global daytime archive of cloud-free ETM+ data. This research evaluates the availability of cloud-free Landsat ETM+ data over the conterminous U.S. and globally using 3 years of ETM+ cloud fraction metadata archived by the U.S. Landsat project. Landsat application requirements including obtaining at least one cloud-free observation in a year, a season, and two different seasons, or at least a pair of cloud-free observations occurring no more than 16, 32, 48, 64, and 80 days apart within a year and season are considered. Probabilistic analyses indicate that over the conterminous U.S., land applications requiring at least one cloud-free observation in a year, a season, two different seasons, or at least two cloud-free observations occurring within any period of the year, are on average largely unaffected by cloud cover, except for certain Winter applications and cloudy scenes near the U.S.–Canada border and the Great Lakes. Cloud becomes a constraint when at least two cloud-free observations are required from the same season over the conterminous U.S., especially when the separation between observations is restricted to short time intervals. Global applications requiring at least one cloud-free observation in a season, in two different seasons, and applications requiring at least two cloud-free observations in a year, are all severely affected by cloud and data availability constraints; and globally it is generally not practical to consider land applications that require at least two cloud-free observations in any season. Globally, only land applications requiring at least one cloud-free observation per year are largely unaffected by cloud cover and the reduced global ETM+ data availability. These results are specific only to the U.S. Landsat ETM+ archive; they suggest the need for an increased global Landsat acquisition rate for the current and future Landsat missions and/or the development of new approaches to mitigating cloud contamination in the U.S. global Landsat ETM+ archive.
Remote Sensing of Environment
DOI of Published Version
Ju, J. and Roy, David P., "The Availability of Cloud-free Landsat ETM+ Data Over the Conterminous United States and Globally" (2007). GSCE Faculty Publications. 94.