Martin-Ortega, P; Garcia-Montero, LG; Sibelet, N (2020). Temporal Patterns in Illumination Conditions and Its Effect on Vegetation Indices Using Landsat on Google Earth Engine. REMOTE SENSING, 12(2), 211.

Vegetation indices (VI) describe vegetation structure and functioning but they are affected by illumination conditions (IC). Moreover, the fact that the effect of the IC on VI can be stronger than other biophysical or seasonal processes is under debate. Using Google Earth Engine and the latest Landsat Surface Reflectance level 1 data, we evaluated the temporal patterns of IC and two VI, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) in a mountainous tropical forest during the years 1984-2017. We evaluated IC and VI at different times, their relationship with the topography and the correlations between them. We show that IC is useful for understanding the patterns of variation between VI and IC at the pixel level using Landsat sensors. Our findings confirmed a strong correlation between EVI and IC and less between NDVI and IC. We found a significant increase in IC, EVI, and NDVI throughout time due to an improvement in the position of all Landsat sensors. Our results reinforce the need to consider IC to interpret VI over long periods using Landsat data in order to increase the precision of monitoring VI in irregular topography.