Empirical comparison of Landsat 7 and IKONOS multispectral measurements for selected Earth Observation System (EOS) validation sites

TitleEmpirical comparison of Landsat 7 and IKONOS multispectral measurements for selected Earth Observation System (EOS) validation sites
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsGoward, SN, Davis, PE, Fleming, D, Miller, L, Townshend, JR
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Pagination80 -99
Accession NumberKNZ00956
KeywordsETM+, IKONOS, Landsat 7

The Space Imaging IKONOS observatory may provide an important benefit in terrestrial scientific research. The five-band, 1 m panchromatic and 4 m multispectral measurements have the potential to provide a source of measurements to evaluate subpixel land cover variability in measurements from observatories such as Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) and Terra MODIS sensor. The IKONOS observations are at a spatial scale equivalent to field measurements typically carried out in ecological and land cover research. As such, the IKONOS observations may serve as a source of “virtual” ground measurements, for the lower spatial resolution, global observatories.

In this study we examine how well IKONOS sensor observations replicate Landsat 7 ETM+ visible/near infrared observations for selected Earth Observation System (EOS) validation sites in the United States. The sites examined—Beltsville, MD, Konza Prairie, KS, and Sevilleta, NM—sample the east–west moisture gradient across the United States. Observations for each site were acquired, as nearly time-coincident as possible, from ETM+ and the IKONOS sensor, several times over the growing season. This was done to insure that we compared these two sensors over the widest range of observing conditions possible.

We also examined IKONOS imagery from Phoenix, AZ, where Space Imaging had and had not applied a modulation transfer function compensation (MTFC) process. The MTFC is their standard product. We found that this product, at the original 4 m spatial resolution, appears to have minor radiometric artifacts as a result of the process. When the IKONOS observations were aggregated to 30 m, this problem was essentially absent, allowing us to proceed with the remainder of our study.

We processed the IKONOS sensor and ETM+ measurements to produce close approximates of each other. Our processing steps included ortho-rectification, calibration to planetary reflectance, pixel alignment and pixel aggregation. We initially found radiometric differences between the two sensors that increased with increasing wavelength. Space Imaging updated their calibration information, based on analyses from NASA Stennis Space Center staff, which removed much of this discrepancy. We now find that the IKONOS red and near infrared measurements differ between the two sensors, with IKONOS generally producing higher reflectance in the red band and lower reflectance in the near infrared band than the Landsat 7 ETM+ sensor. This results in the IKONOS sensor producing lower spectral vegetation index measurements, for the same target, than ETM+, a measurement variation that has been observed between other sensors.

We also encountered far more cirrus cloud (and shadow) contamination in these paired observations that we had expected. After careful initial selection, we lost over half of our image pairs from the analysis because of cirrus cloud contamination. We do not know whether this is simply because of the paired, comparative design of this study or whether it relates to the increased spatial and radiometric resolution of the IKONOS sensor.

The results of this study not only provide a baseline assessment of IKONOS versus Landsat 7 ETM+ visible and near infrared measurements but also suggest some of the issues that need more attention when comparing other sensor systems as well as developing the design of future land observatories.