Radiometric Calibration of the Landsat MSS Sensor Series

Helder, D. L., S. Karki, R. Bhatt, E. Micijevic, D. Aaron, and B. Jasinski (2012), Radiometric Calibration of the Landsat MSS Sensor Series, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 50, 2380-2399, doi:10.1109/TGRS.2011.2171351.

Multispectral remote sensing of the Earth using Landsat sensors was ushered on July 23, 1972, with the launch of Landsat-1. Following that success, four more Landsat satellites were launched, and each of these carried the Multispectral Scanner System (MSS). These five sensors provided the only consistent multispectral space-based imagery of the Earth’s surface from 1972 to 1982. This work focuses on developing both a consistent and absolute radiometric calibration of this sensor system. Cross-calibration of the MSS was performed through the use of pseudoinvariant calibration sites (PICSs). Since these sites have been shown to be stable for long periods of time, changes in MSS observations of these sites were attributed to changes in the sensors themselves. In addition, simultaneous data collections were available for some MSS sensor pairs, and these were also used for cross-calibration. Results indicated substantial differences existed between instruments, up to 16%, and these were reduced to 5% or less across all MSS sensors and bands. Lastly, this paper takes the calibration through the final step and places the MSS sensors on an absolute radiometric scale. The methodology used to achieve this was based on simultaneous data collections by the Landsat-5 MSS and Thematic Mapper (TM) instruments. Through analysis of image data from a PICS location and through compensating for the spectral differences between the two instruments, the Landsat-5 MSS sensor was placed on an absolute radiometric scale based on the Landsat-5 TM sensor. Uncertainties associated with this calibration are considered to be less than 5%.

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