Surface-atmosphere interactions in the thermal infrared (8 - 14um)
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Remote sensing of land surface temperature (LST) is a complex task. From a satellite-based perspective the radiative properties of the land surface and the atmosphere are inextricably linked. Knowledge of both is required if one is to accurately measure the temperature of the land surface from a space-borne platform. In practice, most satellite-based sensors designed to measure LST over the surface of the Earth are polar orbiting. They scan swaths of the order of 2000 km, utilizing zenith angles of observation of up to 60°. As such, satellite viewing geometry is important when comparing estimates of LST between different overpasses of the same point on the Earth's surface. In the case of the atmosphere, the optical path length through which the surfaceleaving radiance propagates increases with increasing zenith angle of observation. A longer optical path may in turn alter the relative contributions which molecular absorption and emission processes make to the radiance measured at the satellite sensor. A means of estimating the magnitudes of these radiative components in relation to the viewing geometry of the satellite needs to be developed if their impacts on the at-sensor radiance are to be accurately accounted for. The problem of accurately describing radiative transfer between the surface and the satellite sensor is further complicated by the fact that the surface-leaving radiance itself may also vary with sensor viewing geometry. Physical properties of the surface such as emissivity are known to vary as the zenith angle of observation changes. The proportions of sunlit and shaded areas with the field-of-view of the sensor may also change with viewing geometry depending on the type of cover (eg vegetation), further impacting the surface emissivity.Investigation of the change in surface-leaving radiance as the zenith angle of observation varies is then also important in developing a better understanding of the radiative interaction between the land surface and the atmosphere. The work in this study investigates the atmospheric impacts using surface brightness temperature measurements from the ATSR-2 satellite sensor in combination with atmospheric profile data from radiosondes and estimates of the downwelling sky radiance made by a ground-based radiometer. A line-by-line radiative transfer model is used to model the angular impacts of the atmosphere upon the surfaceleaving radiance. Results from the modelling work show that if the magnitude of the upwelling and downwelling sky radiance and atmospheric transmittance are accurately known then the surface-emitted radiance and hence the LST may be retrieved with negligible error. Guided by the outcomes of the modelling work an atmospheric correction term is derived which accounts for absorption and emission by the atmosphere, and is based on the viewing geometry of the satellite sensor and atmospheric properties characteristic of a semi-arid field site near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory (Central Australia). Ground-based angular measurements of surface brightness temperature made by a scanning, self calibrating radiometer situated at this field site are then used to investigate how the surface-leaving radiance varies over a range of zenith angles comparable to that of the ATSR-2 satellite sensor.Well defined cycles in the angular dependence of surface brightness temperature were observed on both diumal and seasonal timescales in these data. The observed cycles in surface brightness temperature are explained in terms of the interaction between the downwelling sky radiance and the angular dependence of the surface emissivity. The angular surface brightness temperature and surface emissivity information is then applied to derive an LST estimate of high accuracy (approx. 1 K at night and 1-2 K during the day), suitable for the validation of satellite-derived LST measurements. Finally, the atmospheric and land surface components of this work are combined to describe surface-atmosphere interaction at the field site. Algorithms are derived for the satellite retrieval of LST for the nadir and forward viewing geometries of the ATSR-2 sensor, based upon the cycles in the angular dependence of surface brightness temperature observed in situ and the atmospheric correction term developed from the modelling of radiative transfer in the atmosphere. A qualitative assessment of the performance of these algorithms indicates they may obtain comparable accuracy to existing dual angle algorithms (approx. 1.5 K) in the ideal case and an accuracy of 3-4 K in practice, which is limited by knowledge of atmospheric properties (eg downwelling sky radiance and atmospheric transmittance), and the surface emissivity. There are, however, strong prospects of enhanced performance given better estimates of these physical quantities, and if coefficients within the retrieval algorithms are determined over a wider range of observation zenith angles in the future.
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