A Global MODIS Water Vapor Database for the Operational Atmospheric Correction of Historic and Recent Landsat Imagery


Analysis Ready Data (ARD) have undergone the most relevant pre-processing steps to satisfy most user demands. The freely available software FORCE (Framework for Operational Radiometric Correction for Environmental monitoring) is capable of generating Landsat ARD. An essential step of generating ARD is atmospheric correction, which requires water vapor data. FORCE relies on a water vapor database obtained from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). However, two major drawbacks arise from this strategy: (1) The database has to be compiled for each study area prior to generating ARD; and (2) MODIS and Landsat commissioning dates are not well aligned. We have therefore compiled an application-ready global water vapor database to significantly increase the operational readiness of ARD production. The free dataset comprises daily water vapor data for February 2000 to July 2018 as well as a monthly climatology that is used if no daily value is available. We systematically assessed the impact of using this climatology on surface reflectance outputs. A global random sample of Landsat 5/7/8 imagery was processed twice (i) using daily water vapor (reference) and (ii) using the climatology (estimate), followed by computing accuracy, precision, and uncertainty (APU) metrics. All APU measures were well below specification, thus the fallback usage of the climatology is generally a sound strategy. Still, the tests revealed that some considerations need to be taken into account to help quantify which sensor, band, climate, and season are most or least affected by using a fallback climatology. The highest uncertainty and bias is found for Landsat 5, with progressive improvements towards newer sensors. The bias increases from dry to humid climates, whereas uncertainty increases from dry and tropic to temperate climates. Uncertainty is smallest during seasons with low variability, and is highest when atmospheric conditions progress from a dry to a wet season (and vice versa).

Remote Sensing