Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Arid land monitoring using Landsat albedo difference images

January 1, 1981

The Landsat albedo, or percentage of incoming radiation reflected from the ground in the wavelength range of 0.5 [mu]m to 1.1 [mu]m, is calculated from an equation using the Landsat digital brightness values and solar irradiance values, and correcting for atmospheric scattering, multispectral scanner calibration, and sun angle. The albedo calculated for each pixel is used to create an albedo image, whose grey scale is proportional to the albedo. Differencing sequential registered images and mapping selected values of the difference is used to create quantitative maps of increased or decreased albedo values of the terrain. All maps and other output products are in black and white rather than color, thus making the method quite economical. Decreases of albedo in arid regions may indicate improvement of land quality; increases may indicate degradation. Tests of the albedo difference mapping method in the Desert Experimental Range in southwestern Utah (a cold desert with little long-term terrain change) for a four-year period show that mapped changes can be correlated with erosion from flash floods, increased or decreased soil moisture, and increases or decreases in the density of desert vegetation, both perennial shrubs and annual plants. All terrain changes identified in this test were related to variations in precipitation. Although further tests of this method in hot deserts showing severe "desertification" are needed, the method is nevertheless recommended for experimental use in monitoring terrain change in other arid and semiarid regions of the world.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1981
Title Arid land monitoring using Landsat albedo difference images
DOI 10.1016/0034-4257(81)90014-6
Authors Charles J. Robinove, Pat S. Chavez, Dale G. Gehring, Ralph Holmgren
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing of Environment
Series Number
Index ID 70011886
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center