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7 January 2004 LANL MTI science team experience
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The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) is a technology test and demonstration satellite whose primary mission involved a finite number of technical objectives. MTI was not designed, or supported, to become a general purpose operational satellite. The role of the MTI science team is to provide a core group of system-expert scientists who perform the scientific development and technical evaluations needed to meet programmatic objectives. Another mission for the team is to develop algorithms to provide atmospheric compensation and quantitative retrieval of surface parameters to a relatively small community of MTI users. Finally, the science team responds and adjusts to unanticipated events in the life of the satellite. Broad or general lessons learned include the value of working closely with the people who perform the calibration of the data as well as those providing archived image and retrieval products. Close interaction between the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) teams was very beneficial to the overall effort as well as the science effort. Secondly, as time goes on we make increasing use of gridded global atmospheric data sets which are products of global weather model data assimilation schemes. The Global Data Assimilation System information is available globally every six hours and the Rapid Update Cycle products are available over much of the North America and its coastal regions every hour. Additionally, we did not anticipate the quantity of validation data or time needed for thorough algorithm validation. Original validation plans called for a small number of intensive validation campaigns soon after launch. One or two intense validation campaigns are needed but are not sufficient to define performance over a range of conditions or for diagnosis of deviations between ground and satellite products. It took more than a year to accumulate a good set of validation data. With regard to the specific programmatic objectives, we feel that we can do a reasonable job on retrieving surface water temperatures well within the 1°C objective under good observing conditions. Before the loss of the onboard calibration system, sea surface retrievals were usually within 0.5°C. After that, the retrievals are usually within 0.8°C during the day and 0.5°C at night. Daytime atmospheric water vapor retrievals have a scatter that was anticipated: within 20%. However, there is error in using the Aerosol Robotic Network retrievals as validation data which may be due to some combination of calibration uncertainties, errors in the ground retrievals, the method of comparison, and incomplete physics. Calibration of top-of-atmosphere radiance measurements to surface reflectance has proven daunting. We are not alone here: it is a difficult problem to solve generally and the main issue is proper compensation for aerosol effects. Getting good reflectance validation data over a number of sites has proven difficult but, when assumptions are met, the algorithm usually performs quite well. Aerosol retrievals for off-nadir views seem to perform better than near-nadir views and the reason for this is under investigation. Land surface temperature retrieval and temperature-emissivity separations are difficult to perform accurately with multispectral sensors. An interactive cloud masking system was implemented for production use. Clouds are so spectrally and spatially variable that users are encouraged to carefully evaluate the delivered mask for their own needs. The same is true for the water mask. This mask is generated from a spectral index that works well for deep, clear water, but there is much variability in water spectral reflectance inland and along coasts. The value of the second-look maneuvers has not yet been fully or systematically evaluated. Early experiences indicated that the original intentions have marginal value for MTI objectives, but potentially important new ideas have been developed. Image registration (the alignment of data from different focal planes) and band-to-band registration has been a difficult problem to solve, at least for mass production of the images in a processing pipeline. The problems, and their solutions, are described in another paper.
© (2004) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.

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