A measurement-based radiance estimation approach for vicarious radiometric calibration of spaceborne multispectral remote sensing systems has been developed. This simplified process eliminates the use of radiative transfer codes and reduces the number of atmospheric assumptions required to perform sensor calibrations. Like prior approaches, the simplified method involves the collection of ground truth data coincident

with the overpass of the remote sensing system being calibrated, but this approach differs from the prior techniques in both the nature of the data collected and the manner in which the data are processed.

In traditional vicarious radiometric calibration, ground truth data are gathered using ground-viewing spectrora-diometers and one or more sun photometer(s), among other instruments,

located at a ground target area. The measured data from the ground-based instruments are used in radiative transfer models to estimate the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) target radiances at the time of satellite overpass. These TOA radiances are compared with the satellite sensor readings to radiometrically calibrate the sensor.

Traditional vicarious radiometric calibration methods require that an atmospheric model be defined such that the ground-based observations of solar transmission and diffuse-to-global ratios are in close agreement with the radiative transfer code estimation of these parameters. This process is labor-intensive and complex, and can be prone to errors. The errors can be compounded because of approximations in the model and inaccurate assumptions about the radiative coupling between the atmosphere and the terrain. The errors can increase the uncertainty of the TOA radiance estimates used to perform the radiometric calibration.

In comparison, the simplified approach does not use atmospheric radiative transfer models and involves fewer assumptions concerning the radiative transfer properties of the atmosphere. This new technique uses two neighboring uniform ground target areas having different reflectance values. The target areas can be natural or artificial and must be large enough to minimize adjacent-pixel contamination effects. The radiative coupling between the atmosphere and the terrain needs to be approximately the same for the two targets. This condition can be met for relatively uniform backgrounds when the distance between the targets is within a few hundred meters.

For each target area, the radiance leaving the ground in the direction of the satellite is measured with a radiometrically calibrated spectroradiometer. Using the radiance measurements from the two targets, atmospheric adjacency and atmospheric scattering effects can be subtracted, thereby eliminating many assumptions about the atmosphere and the radiative interaction between the atmosphere and the terrain. In addition, the radiometrically calibrated spectroradiometer can be used with a known reflectance target to estimate atmospheric transmission and diffuse-to-global ratios without the need for ancillary sun photometers.

Several comparisons between the simplified method and traditional techniques were found to agree within a few percent. Hence, the simplified method reduces the overall complexity of performing vicarious calibrations and can serve as a method for validating traditional radiative transfer models.

This work was done by Thomas Stanley of Stennis Space Center and Robert E. Ryan, Kara Holekamp, and Mary Pagnutti of Science Systems and Applications, Inc.

Inquiries concerning this technology should be addressed to the Intellectual Property Manager, Stennis Space Center, (228) 688-1929. Refer to SSC-00301-1, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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