Reducing Variability and Removing Natural Light from Nighttime Satellite Imagery: A Case Study Using the VIIRS DNB

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Jun 9;20(11):3287. doi: 10.3390/s20113287.


Temporal variation of natural light sources such as airglow limits the ability of night light sensors to detect changes in small sources of artificial light (such as villages). This study presents a method for correcting for this effect globally, using the satellite radiance detected from regions without artificial light emissions. We developed a routine to define an approximate grid of locations worldwide that do not have regular light emission. We apply this method with a 5 degree equally spaced global grid (total of 2016 individual locations), using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day-Night Band (DNB). This code could easily be adapted for other future global sensors. The correction reduces the standard deviation of data in the Earth Observation Group monthly DNB composites by almost a factor of two. The code and datasets presented here are available under an open license by GFZ Data Services, and are implemented in the Radiance Light Trends web application.

Keywords: VIIRS DNB; airglow; artificial light; calibration; nightlights; remote sensing.