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The characteristics and interpretability of land surface change and implications for project design

April 1, 2004

The need for comprehensive, accurate information on land-cover change has never been greater. While remotely sensed imagery affords the opportunity to provide information on land-cover change over large geographic expanses at a relatively low cost, the characteristics of land-surface change bring into question the suitability of many commonly used methodologies. Algorithm-based methodologies to detect change generally cannot provide the same level of accuracy as the analyses done by human interpreters. Results from the Land Cover Trends project, a cooperative venture that includes the U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, have shown that land-cover conversion is a relatively rare event, occurs locally in small patches, varies geographically and temporally, and is spectrally ambiguous. Based on these characteristics of change and the type of information required, manual interpretation was selected as the primary means of detecting change in the Land Cover Trends project. Mixtures of algorithm-based detection and manual interpretation may often prove to be the most feasible and appropriate design for change-detection applications. Serious examination of the expected characteristics and measurability of change must be considered during the design and implementation phase of any change analysis project.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2004
Title The characteristics and interpretability of land surface change and implications for project design
DOI 10.14358/PERS.70.4.439
Authors Terry L. Sohl, Alisa L. Gallant, Thomas R. Loveland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing
Series Number
Index ID 70159341
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center