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Land and Ocean Color. Measuring Vegetation (NDVI, EVI, and Ocean Color). Though we often take the plants and trees around us for granted, almost every aspect of our lives depends upon them.

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measuring vegetation ndvi evi and ocean color
Measuring Vegetation (NDVI, EVI, and Ocean Color)
  • Though we often take the plants and trees around us for granted, almost every aspect of our lives depends upon them.
  • By carefully measuring the wavelengths and intensity of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the land surface back up into space a "Vegetation Index" may be formulated to quantify the concentrations of green leaf vegetation around the globe.
  • Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)
  • Distinct colors (wavelengths) of visible and near-infrared sunlight reflected by the plants determine the density of green on a patch of land and ocean.
  • The pigment in plant leaves, chlorophyll, strongly absorbs visible light (from 0.4 to 0.7 μm) for use in photosynthesis. The cell structure of the leaves, on the other hand, strongly reflects near-infrared light (from 0.7 to 1.1 μm).
  • The more leaves a plant has or the more phytoplankton there is in the column, the more these wavelengths of light are affected, respectively.
daytime visibility
Daytime Visibility

Distant Dark Objects

Appear Brighter

“Clear” Day

Hazy Day

nighttime visibility
Nighttime Visibility

Distant Bright Objects

are dimmer

revisiting daytime visibility
Revisiting Daytime Visibility

Henceforth, we shall only consider scattering

by clouds and aerosols

White Sunlight

Top of Atmosphere

Horizon Color and Intensity

Horizon always

Whitened relative to

Sky above

Distance to the Dark Object

revisiting daytime visibility1
Revisiting Daytime Visibility

White Sunlight

Top of Atmosphere

Increased contribution of

white light

Object appears lighter

with distance

Longer Distance to the Dark Object

daytime visibility revisitied
Daytime Visibility Revisitied

Distant Dark Objects

Appear Brighter

“Clear” Day

Hazy Day

aerosol hygroscopic growth
Aerosol Hygroscopic Growth
  • Deliquescence
    • Dry crystal to solution droplet
  • Hygroscopic
    • Water-attracting
  • Efflorescence
    • Solution droplet to crystal (requires ‘nucleation’)
  • Hysteresis
    • Particle size and phase depends on humidity history

ENVI-1200 Atmospheric Physics

sky imaging
Sky Imaging

500 nm

RV Ron Brown

Central Pacific



Niamey, Niger


Sea of Japan




Calculations of NDVI for a given pixel always result in a number that ranges from minus one (-1) to plus one (+1)

--no green leaves gives a value close to zero.

--zero means no vegetation

--close to +1 (0.8 - 0.9) indicates the highest possible density of green leaves.

NASA Earth Observatory (Illustration by Robert Simmon)

  • NDVI is calculated from the visible and near-infrared light reflected by vegetation.
  • Healthy vegetation (left) absorbs most of the visible light that hits it, and reflects a large portion of the near-infrared light.
  • Unhealthy or sparse vegetation (right) reflects more visible light and less near-infrared light.
  • Real vegetation is highly variable.
advanced very high resolution radiometer avhrr
Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)
  • NOAA has two polar-orbiting meteorological satellites in orbit at all times, with one satellite crossing the equator in the early morning and early evening and the other crossing the equator in the afternoon and late evening. Morning-satellite data are most commonly used for land studies, while data from both satellites are used for atmosphere and ocean studies.
satellite ndvi data sources
Satellite NDVI data sources
























C. Tucker

evi enhanced vegetation index
EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index)
  • In December 1999, NASA launched the Terra spacecraft, the flagship in the agency’s Earth Observing System (EOS) program. Aboard Terra flies a sensor called the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, that greatly improves scientists’ ability to measure plant growth on a global scale. Briefly, MODIS provides much higher spatial resolution (up to 250-meter resolution), while also matching AVHRR’s almost-daily global cover and exceeding its spectral resolution.
history of the ndvi vegetation indices

History of the NDVI& Vegetation Indices

Compton Tucker


s ndvi vs total dry biomass
S NDVI vs. total dry biomass

Explained 80% of biomass accumulation

C. Tucker

average ndvi 1981 2006
Average NDVI 1981-2006

~40,000 orbits of satellite data

NDVI = (ir- red)


C. Tucker

spectral indices ndvi



Spectral Indices: NDVI

NDVI = 0.922

NDVI = 0.356

More info:

Meg Andrew

global vegetation mapping
Global Vegetation Mapping

SeaWiFS Ocean Chlorophyll Land NDVI

ocean color
Ocean Color
  • Locates and enables monitoring of regions of high and low bio-activity.
    • Food (phytoplankton associated with chlorophyll)
    • Climate (phytoplankton possible CO2 sink)
  • Reveals ocean current structure and behavior.
    • Seasonal influences
    • River and Estuary influences
    • Boundary currents
  • Reveals Anthropogenic influences (pollution)
  • Remote sensing reveals large and small scale structures that are very difficult to observe from the surface.

This figure shows four typically observed wavelength bands and the water leaving radiance in high (dotted) and low (solid) chlorophyll waters without the atmospheric signal (lower curves) and with the atmospheric signal (upper curves). The satellite observes the water leaving radiance with the signal due to the atmosphere (upper curves). [Gordon and Wang]


a) The light path of the water-leaving radiance. b) Shows the attenuation of the water-leaving radiance. c) Scattering of the water-leaving radiance out of the sensor's FOV. d) Sun glint (reflection from the water surface). e) Sky glint (scattered light reflecting from the surface). f) Scattering of reflected light out of the sensor's FOV. g) Reflected light is also attenuated towards the sensor. h) Scattered light from the sun which is directed toward the sensor. i) Light which has already been scattered by the atmosphere which is then scattered toward the sensor. j) Water-leaving radiance originating out of the sensor FOV, but scattered toward the sensor. k) Surface reflection out of the sensor FOV which is then scattered toward the sensor. Lw Total water-leaving radiance. Lr Radiance above the sea surface due to all surface reflection effects within the IFOV. Lp Atmospheric path radiance. (Gordan and Wang)

atmospheric correction methods
Atmospheric Correction Methods
  • Develop Theoretical Atmosphere. Include:
      • Rayleigh Scattering - (Strongest in Blue region)
      • Ozone
      • Aerosols - (Absorption and Scattering Characteristics)
  • Use Data from Infrared (IR) band and assume that all of this signal comes from the atmosphere to get knowledge of aerosols.
  • Solve Radiative Transfer Equation
      • Geometry
      • Location (types of aerosols possible)
  • Other considerations:
    • Sun Glint. Avoid - Use wind speed to estimate surface roughness.
    • White Caps. Measure - Use wind speed to estimate coverage.
atmospheric aerosol correction procedure
Atmospheric Aerosol Correction Procedure


Clear H2O




At Satellite







A break in the clouds over the Barents Sea on August 1, 2007 revealed a large, dense phytoplankton bloom to the orbiting MODIS aboard the Terra satellite. The bright aquamarine hues suggest that this is likely a coccolithophore bloom. The visible portion of this bloom covers about 150,000 square kilometers (57,000 square miles) or roughly the area of Wisconsin.