Radiometric correction of multi-temporal Landsat data for characterization of early successional forest patterns in western Oregon.
Detecting and characterizing continuous changes in early forest succession using multi-temporal satellite imagery requires atmospheric correction procedures that are both operationally reliable, and that result in comparable units (e-g., surface reflectance). This paper presents a comparison of five atmospheric correction methods (2 relative, 3 absolute) used to correct a nearly continuous 20-year Landsat TM/ETM+ image data set (19-images) covering western Oregon (pathhow 46/29). In theory, fill absolute correction of individual images in a time-series should effectively minimize atmospheric effects resulting in a series of images that appears more similar in spectral response than the same set of uncorrected images. Contradicting this theory, evidence is presented that demonstrates how absolute correction methods such as Second Simulation of the Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum (6 s), Modified Dense Dark Vegetation (MDDV), and Dark Object Subtraction (DOS) actually make images in a time-series somewhat less spectrally similar to one another. Since the development of meaningful spectral reflectance trajectories is more dependent on consistent measurement of surface reflectance rather than on accurate estimation of true surface reflectance, correction using image pairs is also tested. The relative methods tested are variants of an approach referred to as "absolute-normalization", which matches images in a time-series to an atmospherically corrected reference image using pseudo-invariant features and reduced major axis (RMA) regression. An advantage of "absolute-normalization" is that all images in the time-series are converted to units of surface reflectance while simultaneously being corrected for atmospheric effects. Of the two relative correction methods used for "absolute-normalization", the first employed an automated ordination algorithm called multivariate alteration detection (MAD) to statistically locate pseudo-invariant pixels between each subject and reference image, while the second used analyst selected pseudo-invariant features (PIF) common to the entire image set. Overall, relative correction employed in the "absolute-normalization" context produced the most consistent temporal reflectance response, with the automated MAD algorithm performing equally as well as the handpicked PIFs. Although both relative methods performed nearly equally in terms of observed errors, several reasons emerged for preferring the MAD algorithm. The paper concludes by demonstrating how "absolute-normalization" improves (i.e., reduces scatter in) spectral reflectance trajectory models used for characterizing patterns of early forest succession.