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Snow and ice studies by thematic mapper and multispectral scanner Landsat images

January 1, 1987

Digitally enhanced Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) images of Antarctica reveal snow and ice features to a detail never seen before in satellite images. The six TM reflective spectral bands have a nominal spatial resolution of 30 m, compared to 80 m for the Multispectral Scanner (MSS). TM bands 2–4 are similar to the MSS bands. TM infra-red bands 5 and 7 discriminate better between clouds and snow than MSS or the lower TM bands. They also reveal snow features related to grain-size and possibly other snow properties. These features are not observed in the visible wavelengths. Large features such as flow lines show best in the MSS and lower TM bands. Their visibility is due to photometric effects on slopes. TM thermal band 6 has a resolution of 120 m. It shows ground radiation temperatures and may serve to detect liquid water and to discriminate between features having similar reflectivities in the other bands, such as blue ice.