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Spatiotemporal Characterization of VIIRS Night Light

Small, Christopher

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day Night Band (DNB) on board the Suomi NPP satellite now provides almost a decade of daily observations of night light. The temporal frequency of sampling, without the degree of temporal averaging of annual composites, makes it necessary to consider the distinction between apparent temporal changes of night light related to the imaging process and actual changes in the underlying sources of the night light being imaged. The most common approach to night light change detection involves direct attribution of observed changes to the phenomenon of interest. Implicit in this approach is the assumption that other forms of actual and apparent change in the light source are negligible or non-existent. An alternative approach is to characterize the spatiotemporal variability prior to deductive attribution of causation so that the attribution can be made in the context of the full range of spatial and temporal variation. The primary objective of this study is to characterize night light variability over a range of spatial and temporal scales to provide a context for interpretation of night light changes observed on both subannual and interannual time scales. This analysis is based on a combination of temporal moments, spatial correlation and Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis. A key result of this study is the pervasive heteroskedasticity of VIIRS monthly mean night light. Specifically, the monotonic decrease of variability with increasing mean brightness. Anthropogenic night light is remarkably stable on subannual time scales while background luminance varies considerably. The variance partition from the eigenvalues of the spatiotemporal covariance matrix are 88, 2 and 2% for spatial, seasonal and interannual variance (respectively) in the most diverse region on Earth (Eurasia). Heteroskedasticity is pervasive in the monthly composites; present in all areas for all months of the year, suggesting that much, if not most, of the month-to- month variability may be related to luminance of otherwise stable sources subjected to multiple aspects of the imaging process varying in time. Given the skewed distribution of all night light arising from radial peripheral dimming of bright sources subject to atmospheric scattering, even aggregate metrics using thresholds must be interpreted in light of the fact that much larger numbers of more variable low luminance pixels may statistically overwhelm smaller numbers of stable higher luminance pixels and cause apparent changes related to the imaging process to be interpreted as actual changes in the light sources.


Also Published In

Frontiers in Remote Sensing

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
December 20, 2021