Mapping regional land cover and land use change using MODIS time series
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Coarse resolution satellite observations of the Earth provide critical data in support of land cover and land use monitoring at regional to global scales. This dissertation focuses on methodology and dataset development that exploit multi-temporal data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to improve current information related to regional forest cover change and urban extent. In the first element of this dissertation, I develop a novel distance metric-based change detection method to map annual forest cover change at 500m spatial resolution. Evaluations based on a global network of test sites and two regional case studies in Brazil and the United States demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of this methodology, where estimated changes in forest cover are comparable to reference data derived from higher spatial resolution data sources. In the second element of this dissertation, I develop methods to estimate fractional urban cover for temperate and tropical regions of China at 250m spatial resolution by fusing MODIS data with nighttime lights using the Random Forest regression algorithm. Assessment of results for 9 cities in Eastern, Central, and Southern China show good agreement between the estimated urban percentages from MODIS and reference urban percentages derived from higher resolution Landsat data. In the final element of this dissertation, I assess the capability of a new nighttime lights dataset from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day/Night Band (DNB) for urban mapping applications. This dataset provides higher spatial resolution and improved radiometric quality in nighttime lights observations relative to previous datasets. Analyses for a study area in the Yangtze River Delta in China show that this new source of data significantly improves representation of urban areas, and that fractional urban estimation based on DNB can be further improved by fusion with MODIS data. Overall, the research in this dissertation contributes new methods and understanding for remote sensing-based change detection methodologies. The results suggest that land cover change products from coarse spatial resolution sensors such as MODIS and VIIRS can benefit from regional optimization, and that urban extent mapping from nighttime lights should exploit complementary information from conventional visible and near infrared observations.