Quantifying uncertainties in nighttime light retrievals from Suomi-NPP and...

Wang, Z., M. O. Román, V. L. Kalb, S. D. Miller, J. Zhang, and R. M. Shrestha (2021), Quantifying uncertainties in nighttime light retrievals from Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 VIIRS Day/Night Band data, Remote Sensing of Environment, 263, 112557, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2021.112557.

Satellite observations of nighttime lights (NTL) from Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 VIIRS Day/Night Band data have been widely used to estimate human activities. Long-term changes such as urban development and abrupt shortterm changes such as power outages have been monitored from temporal NTL acquired by satellites. While high temporal NTL variation has been found across NTL data of varying temporal scale (e.g., daily, monthly, and annual composites), the sources of measurement error and uncertainty are poorly understood. This paper quantifies the sources of VIIRS-derived NTL uncertainty due to view-illumination geometry, surface Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF)/albedo, and the effects of snow cover, lunar irradiance, aerosol loading, cloud mask, vegetation, geometry, and ephemeral artifacts (e.g., the Aurora Borealis). Based on this current assessment of NASA Black Marble retrievals (VNP46, Collection V001), we found that angular and at­ mospheric effects dominate retrieval uncertainty. Errors introduced by upstream data inputs (e.g., a coarser nighttime snow cover flag and misclassification errors in the existing VIIRS nighttime cloud mask) were also found to impact retrieval quality. Despite these challenges, a consistent daily NTL time series record can be routinely generated from top-of-atmosphere VNP46 radiances. Key recommendations include: (1) the use of lunar-BRDF adjusted and atmospherically corrected NTL (i.e., as identified as high-quality retrievals in the VNP46 QA fields), (2) development and improvement to the VIIRS snow cover and cloud masks algorithms to accurately reflect NTL retrieval conditions, (3) characterizing seasonal variations in NTL due to vegetation and snow, (4) reducing geometric effects due to the spatial mismatch of gridded pixel and observation footprint, (5) employing angularly-consistent NTL observations from multiple VIIRS instruments (i.e., Suomi-NPP and NOAA20) to reduce pixel-based uncertainties and address persistent data gaps, and (6) being mindful of surfacereflected radiance from aurora events at mid-to-high latitudes.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Funding Sources: