Spectral Characteristics of the Dynamic World Land Cover Classification

Small, Christopher; Sousa, Daniel John

The Dynamic World product is a discrete land cover classification of Sentinel 2 reflectance imagery that is global in extent, retrospective to 2015, and updated continuously in near real time. The classifier is trained on a stratified random sample of 20,000 hand-labeled 5 × 5 km Sentinel 2 tiles spanning 14 biomes globally. Since the training data are based on visual interpretation of image composites by both expert and non-expert annotators, without explicit spectral properties specified in the class definitions, the spectral characteristics of the classes are not obvious. The objective of this study is to quantify the physical distinctions among the land cover classes by characterizing the spectral properties of the range of reflectance present within each of the Dynamic World classes over a variety of landscapes. This is achieved by comparing both the eight-class probability feature space (excluding snow) and the maximum probability class assignment (label) distributions to continuous land cover fraction estimates derived from a globally standardized spectral mixture model. Standardized substrate, vegetation, and dark (SVD) endmembers are used to unmix nine Sentinel 2 reflectance tiles from nine spectral diversity hotspots for comparison between the SVD land cover fraction continua and the Dynamic World class probability continua and class assignments. The variance partition for the class probability feature spaces indicates that eight of these nine hotspots are effectively five-dimensional to 95% of variance. Class probability feature spaces of the hotspots all show a tetrahedral form with probability continua spanning multiple classes. Comparison of SVD land cover fraction distributions with maximum probability class assignments (labels) and probability feature space distributions reveal a clear distinction between (1) physically and spectrally heterogeneous biomes characterized by continuous gradations in vegetation density, substrate albedo, and structural shadow fractions, and (2) more homogeneous biomes characterized by closed canopy vegetation (forest) or negligible vegetation cover (e.g., desert, water). Due to the ubiquity of spectrally heterogeneous biomes worldwide, the class probability feature space adds considerable value to the Dynamic World maximum probability class labels by offering users the opportunity to depict inherently gradational heterogeneous landscapes otherwise not generally offered with other discrete thematic classifications.


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Remote Sensing

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
February 13, 2023