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SPARC: New Cloud, Snow, and Cloud Shadow Detection Scheme for Historical 1-km AVHHR Data over Canada

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  • 1 Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

The identification of clear-sky and cloudy pixels is a key step in the processing of satellite observations. This is equally important for surface and cloud–atmosphere applications. In this paper, the Separation of Pixels Using Aggregated Rating over Canada (SPARC) algorithm is presented, a new method of pixel identification for image data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the NOAA satellites. The SPARC algorithm separates image pixels into clear-sky and cloudy categories based on a specially designed rating scheme. A mask depicting snow/ice and cloud shadows is also generated. The SPARC algorithm has been designed to work year-round (day and night) over the temperate and polar regions of North America, for current and historical AVHRR/NOAA High-Resolution Picture Transmission (HRPT) and Local Area Coverage (LAC) data with original 1-km spatial resolution. The algorithm was tested and applied to data from the AVHRR sensors flown on board NOAA-6 to NOAA-18. The method was employed in generating historical clear-sky composites for the 1982–2005 period at daily, 10-day, and monthly time scales at 1-km resolution for an area of 5700 km × 4800 km centered over Canada. This region also covers the northern part of the United States, including Alaska, as well as Greenland and the surrounding oceans.

The SPARC algorithm is designed to produce an aggregated rating that accumulates the results of several tests. The magnitude of the rating serves as an indicator of the probability for a pixel to belong to the clear-sky, partly cloudy, or overcast categories. The individual tests employ the spectral properties of five AVHRR channels, as well as surface skin temperature maps from the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset. These temperature fields are available at 32 km × 32 km spatial resolution and at 3-h time intervals. Combining all test results into one final rating for each pixel is beneficial for the generation of multiscene clear-sky composites. The selection of the best pixel to be used in the final clear-sky product is based on the magnitude of the rating. This provides much-improved results relative to other approaches or “yes/no” decision methods.

The SPARC method has been compared to the results of supervised classification for a number of AVHRR scenes representing various seasons (snow-free summer, winter with snow/ice coverage, and transition seasons). The results show an overall agreement between the automated (SPARC) and the supervised classification at the level of 80% to 91%.

Corresponding author address: Alexander P. Trishchenko, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada, 588 Booth Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0Y7, Canada. Email: trichtch@ccrs.nrcan.gc.ca

Abstract

The identification of clear-sky and cloudy pixels is a key step in the processing of satellite observations. This is equally important for surface and cloud–atmosphere applications. In this paper, the Separation of Pixels Using Aggregated Rating over Canada (SPARC) algorithm is presented, a new method of pixel identification for image data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the NOAA satellites. The SPARC algorithm separates image pixels into clear-sky and cloudy categories based on a specially designed rating scheme. A mask depicting snow/ice and cloud shadows is also generated. The SPARC algorithm has been designed to work year-round (day and night) over the temperate and polar regions of North America, for current and historical AVHRR/NOAA High-Resolution Picture Transmission (HRPT) and Local Area Coverage (LAC) data with original 1-km spatial resolution. The algorithm was tested and applied to data from the AVHRR sensors flown on board NOAA-6 to NOAA-18. The method was employed in generating historical clear-sky composites for the 1982–2005 period at daily, 10-day, and monthly time scales at 1-km resolution for an area of 5700 km × 4800 km centered over Canada. This region also covers the northern part of the United States, including Alaska, as well as Greenland and the surrounding oceans.

The SPARC algorithm is designed to produce an aggregated rating that accumulates the results of several tests. The magnitude of the rating serves as an indicator of the probability for a pixel to belong to the clear-sky, partly cloudy, or overcast categories. The individual tests employ the spectral properties of five AVHRR channels, as well as surface skin temperature maps from the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset. These temperature fields are available at 32 km × 32 km spatial resolution and at 3-h time intervals. Combining all test results into one final rating for each pixel is beneficial for the generation of multiscene clear-sky composites. The selection of the best pixel to be used in the final clear-sky product is based on the magnitude of the rating. This provides much-improved results relative to other approaches or “yes/no” decision methods.

The SPARC method has been compared to the results of supervised classification for a number of AVHRR scenes representing various seasons (snow-free summer, winter with snow/ice coverage, and transition seasons). The results show an overall agreement between the automated (SPARC) and the supervised classification at the level of 80% to 91%.

Corresponding author address: Alexander P. Trishchenko, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada, 588 Booth Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0Y7, Canada. Email: trichtch@ccrs.nrcan.gc.ca

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