French, AN, Schmugge, TJ, Ritchie, JC, Hsu, A, Jacob, F, Ogawa, K (2008). "Detecting land cover change at the Jornada Experimental Range, New Mexico with ASTER emissivities". REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 112(4), 1730-1748.
Multispectral thermal infrared remote sensing of surface emissivities can detect and monitor long term land vegetation cover changes over arid regions. The technique is based on the link between spectral emissivities within the 8.5-9.5 mu m interval and density of sparsely covered terrains. The link exists regardless of plant color, which means that it is often possible to distinguish bare soils from senescent and non-green vegetation. This capability is typically not feasible with vegetation indices. The method is demonstrated and verified using ASTER remote sensing observations between 2001 and 2003 over the Jornada Experimental Range, a semi-arid site in southern New Mexico, USA. A compilation of 27 nearly cloud-free, multispectral thermal infrared scenes revealed spatially coherent patterns of spectral emissivities decreasing at rates on the order of 3% per year with R-2 values of similar to 0.82. These patterns are interpreted as regions of decreased vegetation densities, a view supported by ground-based leaf area index transect data. The multi-year trend revealed by ASTER's 90-m resolution data are independently confirmed by 1-km data from Terra MODIS. Comparable NDVI images do not detect the long-term spatially coherent changes in vegetation. These results show that multispectral thermal infrared data, used in conjunction with visible and near infrared data, could be particularly valuable for monitoring land cover changes. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.