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Title: Detecting trends in forest disturbance and recovery using yearly Landsat time series: 2. TimeSync — Tools for calibration and validation

Author: Cohen, Warren B.; Yang, Zhiqiang; Kennedy, Robert;

Date: 2010

Source: Remote Sensing of Environment

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Availability of free, high quality Landsat data portends a new era in remote sensing change detection. Using dense (~annual) Landsat time series (LTS), we can now characterize vegetation change over large areas at an annual time step and at the spatial grain of anthropogenic disturbance. Additionally, we expect more accurate detection of subtle disturbances and improved characterization in terms of both timing and intensity. For Landsat change detection in this new era of dense LTS, new detection algorithms are required, and new approaches are needed to calibrate those algorithms and to examine the veracity of their output. This paper addresses that need by presenting a new tool called TimeSync for syncing algorithm and human interpretations of LTS. The tool consists of four components: (1) a chip window within which an area of userdefined size around an area of interest (i.e., plot) is displayed as a time series of image chips which are viewed simultaneously, (2) a trajectory window within which the plot spectral properties are displayed as a trajectory of Landsat band reflectance or index through time in any band or index desired, (3) a Google Earth window where a recent high-resolution image of the plot and its neighborhood can be viewed for context, and (4) an Access database where observations about the LTS for the plot of interest are entered. In this paper, we describe how to use TimeSync to collect data over forested plots in Oregon and Washington, USA, examine the data collected with it, and then compare those data with the output from a new LTS algorithm, LandTrendr, described in a companion paper (Kennedy et al., 2010). For any given plot, both TimeSync and LandTrendr partitioned its spectral trajectory into linear sequential segments. Depending on the direction of spectral change associated with any given segment in a trajectory, the segment was assigned a label of disturbance, recovery, or stable. Each segment was associated with a start and end vertex which describe its duration. We explore a variety of ways to summarize the trajectory data and compare those summaries derived from both TimeSync and LandTrendr. One comparison, involving start vertex date and segment label, provides a direct linkage to existing change detection validation approaches that rely on contingency (error) matrices and kappa statistics. All other comparisons are unique to this study, and provide a rich set of means by which to examine algorithm veracity. One of the strengths of TimeSync is its flexibility with respect to sample design, particularly the ability to sample an area of interest with statistical validity through space and time. This is in comparison to the use of existing reference data (e.g., field or airphoto data), which, at best, exist for only parts of the area of interest, for only specific time periods, or are restricted thematically. The extant data, even though biased in their representation, can be used to ascertain the veracity of TimeSync interpretation of change. We demonstrate that process here, learning that what we cannot see with TimeSync are those changes that are not expressed in the forest canopy (e.g., pre-commercial harvest or understory burning) and that these extant reference datasets have numerous omissions that render them less than desirable for representing truth.

Keywords: Change detection, land cover dynamics, landsat, time series, forest disturbance, forest growth, temporal segmentation, calibration, validation.

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Cohen, Warren B.; Yang, Zhiqiang; Kennedy, Robert 2010.Detecting trends in forest disturbance and recovery using yearly Landsat time series: 2. TimeSync — Tools for calibration and validation. Remote Sensing of Environment. 114(12): 2911-2924.


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