Optimal atmospheric correction for above-ground forest biomass estimation with the ETM+ remote sensor

Hieu Cong Nguyen, Jaehoon Jung, Jungbin Lee, Sung Uk Choi, Suk Young Hong, Joon Heo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The reflectance of the Earth’s surface is significantly influenced by atmospheric conditions such as water vapor content and aerosols. Particularly, the absorption and scattering effects become stronger when the target features are non-bright objects, such as in aqueous or vegetated areas. For any remote-sensing approach, atmospheric correction is thus required to minimize those effects and to convert digital number (DN) values to surface reflectance. The main aim of this study was to test the three most popular atmospheric correction models, namely (1) Dark Object Subtraction (DOS); (2) Fast Line-of-sight Atmospheric Analysis of Spectral Hypercubes (FLAASH) and (3) the Second Simulation of Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum (6S) and compare them with Top of Atmospheric (TOA) reflectance. By using the k-Nearest Neighbor (kNN) algorithm, a series of experiments were conducted for above-ground forest biomass (AGB) estimations of the Gongju and Sejong region of South Korea, in order to check the effectiveness of atmospheric correction methods for Landsat ETM+. Overall, in the forest biomass estimation, the 6S model showed the bestRMSE’s, followed by FLAASH, DOS and TOA. In addition, a significant improvement of RMSE by 6S was found with images when the study site had higher total water vapor and temperature levels. Moreover, we also tested the sensitivity of the atmospheric correction methods to each of the Landsat ETM+ bands. The results confirmed that 6S dominates the other methods, especially in the infrared wavelengths covering the pivotal bands for forest applications. Finally, we suggest that the 6S model, integrating water vapor and aerosol optical depth derived from MODIS products, is better suited for AGB estimation based on optical remote-sensing data, especially when using satellite images acquired in the summer during full canopy development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18865-18886
Number of pages22
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 31

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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