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Yale Guide to Landsat 8 Image Processing

During the summer of 2013, staff at the Yale Center for Earth Observation examined several of the new Landsat 8 images to gain experience using these data sets. See Table 1, at the end of this document, for specific scene details. We encountered several anomalies that might be of interest to other users. Below are some comments on how to quantitatively process L8 data: More details can be found at

1. Computing Radiance and Reflectance with Landsat 8 data: With Landsat 8, it appears that NASA or USGS do a full computation of reflectivity in each band. We imagine that they use the solar irradiance values and the earth-sun distance to do this computation. They then scale and store values as DN values from zero to 65535. They provide a simple band-independent formula for unscaling the DN values to obtain reflectivity. If radiance (W/m2/sr/um) is desired, a different band-dependent formula is provided. This set of calculations is opposite to the sequence followed in earlier Landsat analyses where radiance is computed first, followed by reflectance. The radiance values from Landsat 8 can be computed from DN values using bandmath or the built-in function within ENVI 5.0 Service Pack 3. These two methods agree pretty well, with a difference of about one part in 10,000. 2. Including solar zenith angle in the reflectance calculation: A curious anomaly is that the reflectance provided from Landsat 8 has not been corrected for solar zenith angle. This means that the provided reflectance is generally too low as its calculation overestimates the irradiance for a horizontal surface. This error is greater at high latitudes and in the cold season when the solar zenith angle is largest. For example, an object with an actual reflectance of 0.2 could appear to have a reflectance of 0.1. The zenith angle correction can easily be done using the scene center sun elevation angle provided in the header file. A more accurate calculation would use the pixel-by-pixel sun elevation angle to compute reflectance. This approach might be valuable at high latitude where the elevation angle changes significantly over the scene. The first release of ENVI 5.0 Service Pack 3 did not make a solar zenith angle correction when it computed reflectance. With previous Landsat data, ENVI included the zenith angle correction when it computed reflectance. Thus Landsat 8 and earlier Landsat data will give different reflectance, unless the user takes the extra step of correcting Landsat 8 data for zenith angle effects. We reported this problem to NASA and Exelis in mid-July 2013. On July 30, 2013 Exelis issued ENVI 5.0 Service Pack 3 Hotfix envi50sp3_r4.exe that computes the reflectivity correctly using the scene center sun elevation angle.

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3. Negative reflectance: Landsat 8 reflectances show a few negative values that must be unphysical. Most of the negative values occur along the periphery of the image and can be removed with a mask. A few remaining negative values in the interior of the scene are associated with small patches of very small reflectance values (e.g. water or shadow). They probably represent random error superimposed on a small real value. SP3 truncates these negative values to zero. 4. Reflectance exceeding unity: Landsat 8 also shows a few reflectance values greater than unity; usually in bright areas of snow or clouds. These values are physically acceptable. They usually arise from bright surfaces that are oriented toward the sun: that is, a sloping snow surface or cloud top slanted towards the sun. Such a surface receives more illumination per unit area than a horizontal surface and thus appears to have a higher reflectance. 5. Saturated pixels: A few pixels have a saturated brightness with a DN value equal to the maximum value of 65535. The term saturation implies that the received radiance at the satellite exceeds the maximum value that can be measured by the sensor. These pixels occur mostly in the NIR band 5. Of the four scenes we examined, only the Dominica scenes had saturated pixels. These were a few shallow cumulus clouds in the May 5th, 2013 scene.

6. Stripes in the image: Some of the bands in Landsat 8 show some evidence of striping, arising presumably from calibration problems in the pushbroom sensor. The stripes in the thermal bands are the most problematic, because even though they are narrow and short in length, they show the biggest offset in pixel values (Band 10: 2.5K, Band 11: 1.2K). The two thermal bands have the same stripes. The stripes in the cirrus and coastal aerosol bands are easier to detect since they are broad and long. However, the offsets in pixel values in these two bands are minimal (~0.0003 in reflectance). A curious feature of the striping is that several rows of pixels show similar calibration with a sudden offset to another uniform region. NASA will probably try to improve the sensor calibration to fix this problem.
7. Computing albedo: Broadband albedo (i.e. vis+nir) can be computed from bands 2-7 in Landsat 8 using two methods. The Liang method uses weights derived for earlier Landsat bands. The simple Yale scheme uses weights derived from the band widths and solar irradiance. In general, the two albedos agree within 0.02 over a wide range of albedo. They differ most for surfaces like snow ice and vegetation. Extreme differences reached 0.06. A few pixels had albedo greater than unity; arising from reflectances greater than unity, using either formula. Quantitative users will want to consider atmospheric effects, BDRF and other effects. 8. Radiance from TIRS: The radiance (W/m2-sr-um) from the TIRS bands can be converted from the given DN values using the linear unscaling formulae provide by the USGS. This unscaling

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can be done manually using band math or automatically with ENVI 5.0 SP3. These two methods give very similar radiance values for radiance, differing by 10^-7 in SI radiance units. 9. Temperature from TIRS: The thermal TIRS bands 10 and 11 can be used to compute brightness temperature from radiance by inverting the Planck function. The user can invert using the standard logarithmic formula and a specified emissivity (e.g. e=1). ENVI 5.0 SP3 does a similar calculation with e=1. In the first release of ENVI 5.0 SP3 there was a significant error in the Planck Function inversion. Temperature errors reached to 2K in Band 10 and 6K in Band 11. These large difference values would invalidate any practical use of TIRS to determine surface temperature. We reported this problem to NASA and Exelis in mid July 2013. On July 30, Exelis issued a Hotix to correct the computation error in temperature. We tested the Hotfix against the manual band-math and it is OK now. The source of the SP3 error was that software used wrong K1 and K2 values because it searched for the wrong name in the metadata file. It is possible to get the SP3 formula to calculate accurate temperatures by editing the K1 and K2 labels in the metadata file. (From K1_CONSTANT_BAND_10 to K1_CONSTANT_BAND10, etc.) This step is not necessary once you apply the ENVI 5.0 Service Pack 3 Hotfix envi50sp3_r4.exe. 10. Temperature difference between Bands 10 and 11: We looked closely at the difference between the brightness temperatures from thermal bands 10 and 11 for evidence of atmospheric absorption or emission of TIR radiation. We define as an indicator of this influence. All calculations were done using band math in ENVI 5.0. Our hypothesis is as follows. Landsat 8 thermal bands fall on the longwave side of the TIR window and are mostly influenced by absorption and emission by CO2. Band 11, being closer to the powerful 15micron band of CO2 is probably more influenced by the atmosphere than band 10. The sign of the we predict as follows. If the atmosphere above the surface is colder than the surface itself, it will absorb more than it emits and the measured temperature will be too low. As band11 is absorbed more than band10, will be negative. For the three warm scenes (Mississippi, Florida and Dominica) the air should be colder that the earths surface. The average offset for these scenes are respectively, consistent with a cold atmosphere above a warm surface. For hot surfaces in the Mississippi scene, the differences approached . In Alaska, of both signs are found. The average suggesting that the atmosphere is warmer than the surface The most dramatic positive difference for any scene is for a high cumulo-nimbus cloud in Florida with a temperature near 220K and , suggesting that that the warm stratosphere above the cloud top was emitting more than absorbing. In general, flat areas with variable surface temperature satisfy , where we approximate Ts by T10. Copyright: Yale University 2013 3

Thus, the hotter the surface, the more negative is value for b=-68K.

. A typical value for a=0.23 while a typical

11. Quantifying the value: To quantify the analysis of the two thermal bands, we write a form of Kirchoffs Law: and where Ts is the surface temperature and is an average air temperature. Subtracting gives or

which is of the form give and

if , so we predict


. The Landsat 8 scenes which seems to be a falls in the

reasonable atmospheric temperature. In all the scenes tested, the value of range 284K to 304K; a bit lower than the column average air temperature.

While this calculation seems to confirm that atmospheric absorption and emission is the cause of the difference between T10 and T11, it does not provide an easy or quantitative correction procedure. We expect that the LDCM science team will publish their own split window method using line-by-line solutions to the radiative transfer equations.

12. Calibrating brightness temperature using melting snow: The only absolute calibration that we have on the thermal band temperature is the occurrence of melting snow in the Alaska scene. If liquid and ice co-exist, the temperature should be close to 0 Celsius = 273.1K. The June Alaska histogram shows a peak near to T10= 274K, suggesting that the atmosphericinduced error is not very large there. 13. Cyan patches in clouds: The appearance of clouds in Landsat 8 scenes with a 654-RGB false color shows cyan patches in otherwise white cloud tops. Three possible reasons for this color shift are: 1) ice clouds reflect less MIR than liquid clouds, 2) liquid clouds with larger cloud droplets reflect less MIR than clouds with small droplets, 3) clouds shaded by other clouds receive less direct sunlight and thus receive proportionately less MIR. It seems that the ice explanation is playing the largest role. Cold cumulo-nimbus anvils have the strongest and most uniform cyan color. Smaller cyan patches are seen in warm clouds also, so other processes may be acting as well. 14. The effect of sub-visible cirrus on surface property retrieval: The new cirrus band on Landsat 8 Band 9 (1.36 to 1.39 microns) can detect cirrus by looking for backscatter from high altitude ice crystals with the dark background caused by photon absorption by water vapor. The appearance of the Band 9 image changes with latitude and season. In cold climates, there is so little water vapor that reflection from low cloud and land/ocean brightens the background.

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Thus, cirrus in cold climates is more difficult to spot. In warm moist climates, the background is very dark and cirrus (and thunderstorm anvils) are easy to detect. From cirrus detected with Band 9 reflectance, the retrieved surface temperature is most strongly influenced. A Band 9 reflectance of 4% (i.e. 0.04) can drop the apparent surface temperature by 10 to 15K. This big effect is due to the very cold temperature of the cirrus cloud; typically 220K. This effect is important even for pixels with Band 9 reflectance less than 1% (i.e. 0.01), where a temperature error of one or two degrees may still be present. We will attempt to determine a regression slope between Band 9 reflectance and the temperature offset. The NDVI is also altered by looking at the earth through this sub-visible cirrus. Due to the flat Mie scattering from cirrus, cirrus will increase the apparent NDVI for water and decrease the apparent NDVI for vegetation. Albedo is also influenced by cirrus, but at about the same level as the reflectivity of Band 9 itself. That is, a 3% Band 9 reflectivity might lift the apparent albedo by about 3% (e.g. from 0.2 to 0.23). 15. The aerosol/coastal band (Band 1): The shortwave Band 1 (0.433 to 0.453um) was designed for detecting aerosols and penetrating shallow water. A useful index can be defined as AC-Index = (B1-B2)/(B1+B2). One of the most striking features of this band is that shadows have large values of AC-Index due to their illumination by blue sky light. According to Rayleigh scattering, the proportionate change of intensity with wavelength is B1 and B2 are significantly different. The AC-Index might be useful for cloud shadow detection. It can even detect cloud-on-cloud shadows. Over the sea, the AC-Index seems to be very sensitive to sun angle and surface roughness; similar to sunglint. For example, in the June 2013 Dominica image, the smooth wake of the island shows a high value of AC-Index. The physics of this sensitivity is unknown to us. The examination of the aerosol band signature of particles in the atmosphere is made more difficult by variable surface properties. Our most successful effort was to examine forest fire plumes in Quebec and Oregon (see the full report online). We constructed transects across the plume over a forested region. In both cases, the AC-Index decreases by about 0.1 in the smoke plume. The apparent NDVI drops dramatically from 0.6 to zero. The albedo rises from 0.1 to 0.25. The brightness temperature in Band 10 drops from 300K to 290K in the plume. These are significant differences and the AC-Index helped to identify the plume. Be aware that the smoke plume may have some cloud droplets within it and thus have a quite different radiative signature than small aerosol particles. Otherwise, given our limited investigation, we were not able to quantify the role of urban haze or dust plumes from arid lands. We have not yet developed a method for using B1 for so

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path radiance correction similar to a Dark Object Subtraction.

Authors: Ronald B. Smith, Laurent Bonneau, Xuhui Lee, Lucia Woo, Frieda Fein

Table 1 Landsat 8 scenes used in this study Site Mississippi River Delta Miami, FL Commonwealth of Dominica Mt McKinley, Alaska Quebec, Canada Medford, Oregon Halifax, Nova Scotia Los Angeles, Ca Path 22 15 01 77 17 45 07 41 Row 39 42 49 16 24 31 29 36 Date(s) 24-May-2013 23-May-2013 5-May-2013 22-Apr-2013 8-Jul-2013 12-Jul-2013 16-Jun-2013 30-Jun-2013

28-Jul-2013 16-Jul-2013

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