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ASTER datasets and derived products for

global glacier monitoring
Bhaskar Ramachandran, John Dwyer, Bruce H. Raup, and Jeffrey S. Kargel

ABSTRACT sensed satellite images of glaciers worldwide. These

images are used to monitor and evaluate changing
This book investigates a wide selection of the glacier extent and dynamics, and the implications
world’s glaciers and the status of remote-sensing of these changes for people and the environment.
and GIS technologies designed to address their Although GLIMS has benefited from data derived
global monitoring in this age of rapid climate from many passive and active remote-sensing
change impacts on glaciers and increasing aware- instruments, and ground-based observations as
ness of the policy and economic relevance of well, ASTER data remain a primary source. The
glaciers in areas as diverse as water resources and instrument has three telescopes and associated sets
geohazards. This chapter focuses on an important of sensors, one for each of the wavelength ranges,
part of the data component, especially data from VNIR, SWIR, and TIR (visible and near-infrared,
the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and shortwave infrared, and thermal infrared, respec-
Reflection radiometer (ASTER) project, which also tively), an image swath width of 60 km, and ground
spawned the Global Land Ice Measurements from resolutions of 15 m/pixel for VNIR, 30 m/pixel for
Space (GLIMS) project as an ASTER Science SWIR, and 90 m/pixel for TIR. The instrument is
Team member project (see Foreword by Hugh described elsewhere in detail (Ramachandran et al.
Kieffer). ASTER’s combination of sensor systems, 2011), but hallmarks of its capabilities include its
spanning the visible through thermal infrared and broad multispectral and thermal imaging range, its
its stereo-imaging capability, the high radiometric exquisite pointing stability (which partly stems from
and geometric fidelity of the cameras, combined the Terra spacecraft’s high mass), and its systematic
with a liberal data dissemination policy for glacier stereoscopic imaging in VNIR band 3.
images, have made it a favored instrument for The multispectral response of the sensor system
glacier remote-sensing studies. Operational use of to glacier target materials is described theoretically
the instrument with on-demand targeting has also in Chapter 3 of this book by Furfaro et al., in
aided specific studies ranging from preplanned field practice in Chapter 4 by Kääb et al., and as used
campaigns to rapid response to glacier-related for glacier mapping in Chapter 2 by Bishop et al.
disasters. Fig. 4.2 depicts ASTER’s spectral wavelengths
for all three sensors juxtaposed alongside those of
6.1 INTRODUCTION Landsat ETMþ and widely used radar bands.
The on-demand nature of ASTER data acquisi-
GLIMS is an international consortium established tion and the ability to optimize acquisitions (via
to facilitate the acquisition and analysis of remotely seasonality, telescope pointability, instrument gain
146 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

settings, etc.) to suit glacier monitoring help cates full and open sharing of all data with the
support the GLIMS project’s data requirements. research and applications communities, academia,
ASTER VNIR and SWIR data have been invalu- private industry, and the general public. In line with
able in glacial landscape classification, glacier map- such a policy, the following ASTER products are
ping, flow velocity vector extraction, glacier lake available to the general public at no charge through
mapping, snow line determinations, and other fun- NASA’s Reverb interface: http://reverb.echo.nasa.
damental investigations of glacier dynamics. Digital gov/reverb/
terrain data, used both to orthorectify satellite
images and to derive and analyze three-dimensional
glacial and landscape parameters, holds special . ASTER L1B Registered Radiance at the Sensor
relevance to the GLIMS project, and thermal data (only for geographical coverage over the U.S. and
from TIR are increasingly being applied to glacier its territories).
studies. Kieffer et al. (2000), Bishop et al. (2004), . ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model
and Raup and Kargel (2012) describe details of the (GDEM).
GLIMS project, what it entails, its objectives and . North American ASTER Land Surface Emissiv-
limitations, its organization, and its reliance on ity Database (NAALSED).
ASTER, Landsat, and other complementary data
sources used to analyze, monitor, and map glacio-
logical phenomena worldwide. Raup et al. (2000) The ASTER L1B datasets over the U.S. and its
describe the initial ASTER image acquisition plans. territories are also accessible via the LP DAAC
Kargel et al. (2005) provide an assessment of how (Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center)
satellite-derived multispectral data contribute to data pool:
GLIMS, and, along with Kääb et al. (2003a) and pool and also through the GloVis interface:
Raup et al. (2007), describe and showcase some of
the leading technologies used for ASTER image All NASA-funded researchers and their affiliates
processing and glacier data extraction from such as well as approved educational users may order
imagery. Kääb et al. (2003b) and Kargel et al. all ASTER data products (L1A, L1B, and higher
(2011) highlight the value and role of ASTER data level) directly from the LP DAAC at no charge.
in the analysis of glacier hazards, and Kargel et al. The LP DAAC maintains a list of people eligible
(2010, 2012a, b) and Bolch et al. (2012) show the to receive ASTER data at no cost; the list is corro-
central relevance of ASTER data and GLIMS borated and approved both by the GLIMS project
glacier analysis to pressing scientific matters related PI (Jeff Kargel, University of Arizona) and a pro-
to public education, public safety, and policy. ject scientist at NASA Headquarters (Woody
These, among many other studies and reviews, Turner).
many of them cited in this book or comprising All ASTER data products (except NAALSED)
the chapters of this book, show the wide versatility are orderable, for a charge, through the Japanese
and importance of ASTER and other multispectral Space Systems Earth Remote Sensing Division
imaging data in glaciological monitoring and WWW IMS interface at http://ims.aster.ersdac.
In this chapter we briefly review ASTER’s liberal html Specific redistribution policies apply to the
data access and use for glacier studies in GLIMS, different ASTER products acquired from LP
summarize the technical calibrations and correc- DAAC. NAALSED data are not subject to any
tions and various standard products, including redistribution restrictions. ASTER GDEM
several important higher level products, and sum- products are subject to certain redistribution and
marize the types of ASTER data acquisitions citation requirements. NASA-affiliated and educa-
involved in the GLIMS project. tional users of ASTER data received from LP
DAAC are bound by certain restrictions to only
redistribute acquired data to other researchers
6.2 ASTER DATA ACCESS AND and educators. No restrictions on subsequent use,
USE POLICY sale, or redistribution exist for ASTER data prod-
ucts purchased from LP DAAC. Consult the fol-
The National Aeronautics and Space Administra- lowing site for additional details: https://lpdaac.
tion’s (NASA) data and information policy advo-
ASTER data 147

6.3 ASTER DATA with calibrations and corrections to make ASTER

data (both lower level and higher level standard
The ASTER instrument, launched as part of the data products, defined below) as quantitatively
NASA Earth Observing System’s (EOS) Terra plat- reliable and useful as possible, as the sections below
form’s payload of instruments in December 1999, is indicate. Nevertheless, glaciologists and other
a unique multispectral sensor system that evolved researchers have applied many validation tests to
through a well-cultivated U.S.–Japan collabora- assess the reliability and accuracy of glacier meas-
tion. Plafcan (2011), who studied the international urements using ASTER and other remote-sensing
political underpinnings of this collaboration, calls data. These efforts helped to characterize the behav-
this process ‘‘technoscientific diplomacy’’, which ior of the operational ASTER system, to identify
led to the design and launch of a successful tripar- problems with early data acquisitions, to improve
tite sensor suite that defines the ASTER instrument. geometric correction algorithms, and to understand
ASTER’s VNIR, SWIR, and TIR sensor data cater lower level and higher level datasets, their uses, and
to a wide variety of geophysical and biophysical artifacts. In fact, most validation work conducted
applications (Ramachandran et al. 2011), including for GLIMS (some reported in this volume) has
science team investigations in volcanology, urban supported the high quality of ASTER image and
development, coastal change, forestry, and other higher level data products; however, we must con-
applications areas; GLIMS is the official ASTER stantly ensure that we practice quantitatively accu-
glacier investigation project. ASTER’s uniqueness rate glacier applications using ASTER or any
stems from its additional backward-viewing VNIR remote-sensing data. Below, we will take as one
band (band V3B) that enables stereoscopic data example a simple validation test of a single TIR
observations, and an unprecedented multispectral scene—not a definitive and full validation, but an
capability in the SWIR (six bands) and TIR (five anecdote sufficient to illustrate the need for ASTER
bands) wavelengths. Tables 6.1 and 6.2 provide users (indeed, users of any remote-sensing dataset)
ASTER’s baseline performance requirements. to take charge of these data, to understand them, to
The ASTER Ground Data System (GDS) facility test them to their limits, and to validate final glacier
at the Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center assessments, measurements, and products derived
(ERSDAC) in Tokyo, Japan processes ASTER from ASTER and other remote-sensing data.
Level 1 data (L1), which is transmitted to the Land This chapter deals strictly with the sensor systems
Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP and standard data-processing stream, and we do
DAAC) in Sioux Falls, SD. LP DAAC archives not consider at all the additional data processing
the L1 data and creates higher level products for and human links involved with extraction of glacier
its nonpaying users and paying federal partners, information. Chapter 7 is mainly a test of the
while all other paying user orders are handled by human element as well as higher level analysis algo-
ASTER GDS. Watanabe et al. (2011) provide a rithms in the delineation of glacier boundaries,
succinct account of the various elements of the joint whereas Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 pertain to glacier
U.S.–Japan ASTER mission including the mission assessments using ASTER and other remote-
operations, production, data product suites, and sensing data.
data dissemination in both countries. Daucsavage
et al. (2011) describe the historical and contempor- Performance overview
ary ASTER data management experience at LP
DAAC. The ASTER performance specifications for abso-
lute radiometric accuracy of VNIR and SWIR
bands are defined as better than  4% at high-
6.3.1 Performance of ASTER VNIR, level input radiance. The absolute accuracy of the
SWIR, and TIR TIR bands is specified at 3 K at 200–240 K, 2 K
at 240–270 K, 1 K at 270–340 K, and 2 K at Embeo_h, lm jombeo_h (doveryai, no
340–370 K. The geometric performance details for
proveryai: Trust, but verify)
intratelescopic band-to-band registration is <0.1
This Russian proverb, made famous in English by pixel, and <0.2 pixel for intertelescopic band-to-
a former American President, applies to scientific band registration. Well past its original design life-
uses of any remote-sensing dataset. The ASTER time, the ASTER instrument (sans the SWIR sen-
science and engineering teams have worked hard sor) continues to perform well, as its radiometry
148 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

Table 6.1. ASTER: baseline performance requirements—1 (spectral range, radiometric and spatial resolution,
accuracy, and signal quantization levels).

Sensor Band No. Spectral Radiometric Absolute Spatial Signal

subsystem range resolution accuracy resolution quantization
(mm) () levels

VNIR 1 0.52–0.60 NED 0.5%  4% 15 m 8 bits

2 0.63–0.69 NED 0.5%  4% 15 m 8 bits
3N 0.78–0.86 NED 0.5%  4% 15 m 8 bits
3B 0.78–0.86 NED 0.5%  4% 15 m 8 bits

SWIR 4 1.600–1.700 NED  0:5%  4% 30 m 8 bits

5 2.145–2.185 NED  1:3%  4% 30 m 8 bits
6 2.185–2.225 NED  1:3%  4% 30 m 8 bits
7 2.235–2.285 NED  1:3%  4% 30 m 8 bits
8 2.295–2.365 NED  1:0%  4% 30 m 8 bits
9 2.360–2.430 NED  1:3%  4% 30 m 8 bits

TIR 10 8.125–8.475 NEDT  0:3% 90 m 12 bits

11 8.475–8.825 NEDT  0:3%  3K (200–240 K) 90 m 12 bits
12 8.925–9.275 NEDT  0:3%  2K (240–270 K) 90 m 12 bits
13 10.25–10.95 NEDT  0:3%  1K (270–340 K) 90 m 12 bits
14 10.95–11.65 NEDT  0:3%  2K (340–370 K) 90 m 12 bits

and geometry are carefully calibrated and cor- on coefficients that are generated and maintained
rected. Nevertheless, CCD sensitivity is decreasing by ASTER GDS in an evolving, periodically
over time and is being tracked, and radiances are updated radiometric calibration coefficients
rigorously corrected accordingly (Sakuma et al. (RCC) database. These coefficients were evaluated
2011). Engineering models for the future of ASTER during the preflight test period with the aid of
entail many more years of operations, with the integration spheres. This was followed by in-flight
number of years of future longevity connected to evaluation using onboard calibration (OBC) and
how the instrument is used operationally. vicarious (ground-based) calibration data, which
are described in detail by Arai and Tonooka
(2005), Arai et al. (2011), and Tonooka (2011) for Radiometric calibration
the sensor subsystems. Both VNIR and SWIR
The sensor electronics in any orbiting electrooptical sensor systems have calibration units that include
remote-sensing system are expected to degrade, a highly stable halogen lamp, optics to collect radia-
which manifests in their changing sensor responses tion and direct it as a reference beam to the
over time. The 13-year-old Terra ASTER instru- radiometer, and photodetectors to monitor lamp
ment is no exception evidenced by the gradual radiation and reference beam flux. The TIR system
changes in VNIR (Arai et al. 2011) and TIR has a high emissivity reference plate (blackbody) for
(Tonooka 2011) radiometric responses. SWIR sen- onboard calibration.
sor responses had been somewhat more stable, with The ASTER Science Team members in the U.S.
sensitivity drifts that were almost linear and, thus, and Japan are actively involved in calibration and
predictable and correctable; however, starting in validation activities, and ASTER GDS is respons-
mid-2007, its detector temperature started rising ible for maintaining and managing the radiometric
gradually, thus impacting data quality. Since April calibration database. The nature of changes in spec-
2008, even though the SWIR sensor continues to tral response functions varies among the three sen-
gather observations, the images are fully saturated sors and consequently calls for specifically tailored
and show severe striping, and hence do not yield calibration correction mechanisms. Calibration also
any useful data. varies according to the correction function applied
ASTER’s radiometric calibration (which ensures based on radiometric changes observed via both
the sensor’s known accuracy and precision) is based vicarious and onboard sources. Table 6.3 sum-
ASTER data 149

Table 6.2. ASTER: baseline performance requirements—2 (cross-track coverage and pointing, VNIR optics, FOV,
IFOV, MTF, duty cycle etc.).

Parameter Value

Swath width 60 km

VNIR cross-track coverage 318 km

SWIR cross-track coverage 116 km

TIR cross-track coverage 116 km

VNIR cross-track pointing 24.00

SWIR cross-track pointing 8.55

TIR cross-track pointing 8.55

Stereo base-to-height ratio 0.6 (along-track)

Setting angle between nadir and aft telescopes 27.60

Focal length of the VNIR nadir system 329 mm

Detector size of the VNIR focal plane 7 mm

Field of view VNIR: 6.09 (nadir), 5.19 (aft), SWIR: 4.9 , TIR: 4.9

Instantaneous field of view VNIR: 21.5 mrad (nadir), 18.6 mrad (aft),
SWIR: 42.6 mrad, TIR: 128 mrad

Modulation transfer function at Nyquist frequency 0.25 (cross-track), 0.20 (along-track)

Band-to-band registration 0.2 pixels (intratelescope), 0.3 pixels (intertelescope)

Duty cycle 8% (VNIR and SWIR), 16% (TIR)

VNIR data rate 62 mbps

SWIR data rate 23 mbps

TIR data rate 4.2 mbps

Peak data rate 89.2 mbps

Mass 406 kg

Peak power 726 W

marizes the ASTER GDS RCC databases since The sensors’ responses seen in these images show
February 2005 when ASTER Version 3 products small but significant departures from square waves
were implemented. The application of Version (perfect focus), where the so-called modulation
3.00 through 3.11 databases varies for each sensor transfer function (MTF) indicates what may be
as a function of the acquisition date following the described as blurring of the edge. Blurring probably
Terra ASTER launch in December 1999. has both optical and electronic origins. For each of
The actual performance of the sensor subsystems the sensor subsystems, the cross-track and along-
has been determined by imaging of sharp edges, track responses (lines versus samples in the images)
such as engineered shorelines and the lunar limb. are slightly different, with further differences occur-
150 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

Table 6.3. ASTER GDS radiometric calibration coefficients: versioning and formulas.

Version Update date Application period Referred OBC (from–to) and formula
(yyyy/mm/dd) (days since launch)

3.00 2005/02/08 1999/12/18 2000/02/01 77.0 K 2000/03/12

(0) to to to
2001/10/20 78.2 K 2000/10/07
Second-order poly. Linear Linear
(offset only)
3.01 2005/02/08 2000/10/18 2000/10/27
(305) to
3.02 2005/02/08 2001/10/21 2001/10/21 Second-order poly.
(673) to (C0)
2005/07/30 Exponential (C1)

3.03 2006/07/08 2006/07/08 2004/12/11 77.0 K 2002/09/15

(2,394) to to to
2006/04/20 79.3 K 2005/12/09
Second-order poly.
(offset only)

3.04 2007/01/29 2007/01/29 77.0 K

(2,599) to
81.1 K

3.05 2007/05/06 2007/05/06 77.0 K

(2,696) to
81.1 K
3.06 2008/06/16 2007/06/16 Exponential 2004/02/18
(offset only) to

3.07 2008/04/08 2007/09/22 77.0 K

(2,835) to
86.8 K
3.08 2008/07/05 2008/07/06 2004/12/11 2005/06/27
(3,123) to to
2008/05/18 2008/05/18
3.09 2008/09/03 2008/07/18 Fixed 255

3.10 2009/09/27 2009/09/27 2005/06/27

(3,571) to

3.11 2010/07/10 2010/07/10 2003/04/16 2008/03/13

(3,857) to to
2010/05/14 2010/05/14

All dates follow the ASTER GDS format: yyyy/mm/dd. OBC ¼ onboard calibration; second-order poly. ¼ second-order polynomial
correction; C0 ¼ offset correction coefficient (adjusted based on preobservation blackbody measurement); C1 ¼ gain coefficient derived
by measuring the blackbody at 270, 300, 320, and 340 K.
ASTER data 151

Table 6.4. ASTER: geometric performance parameters.

Parameter Version 3.0 Geometric DB (database)

Intratelescopic registration VNIR <0.1 pixel

SWIR <0.1 pixel
TIR <0.1 pixel

Intertelescopic registration SWIR/VNIR <0.2 pixel

TIR/VNIR <0.2 pixel

Stereo pair system (elevation) error Band 3B/3N (nadir) <10 m

Pixel geolocation knowledge a Relative <15 m

Absolute <50 m
Not terrain-corrected.

ring between different bands (indicating an elec- tion also incorporates both preflight and post-
tronic component of the MTF). In general most launch calibration processes. Preflight calibration
of the image intensity transition across the imaged is an offline process to generate line-of-sight vectors
edges takes place across 2 pixels (1 pixel from the and pointing axes information that are evaluated
actual edge); a small amount of the transition is toward the spacecraft’s navigation base reference,
further spread across 4 pixels (2 pixels from the which reflects the instrument’s accuracy and stabil-
edge) (Arai and Tonooka 2005). For example, band ity. Following ASTER’s launch, these parameters
10 thermal images of sharp edges show that roughly were corrected via validation with ground control
90% of signal intensity (related to temperature) points (GCPs) and interband matching techniques.
transition occurs within 1 pixel from the edge, They include pointing correction, coordinate trans-
but the rest of the intensity transition is spread more formations that involve spacecraft, orbital, Earth’s
widely. The derivative of the MTF takes a Gaussian inertial and Greenwich coordinates, and band-to-
form. band registration accuracies through SWIR paral-
In addition, a member of the ASTER calibration lax correction and intertelescope registration pro-
team, Hugh Kieffer (unpublished report), has cesses (Iwasaki and Fujisada 2005, Fujisada 2011).
demonstrated TIR ghosting of thermal images of Given the ASTER instrument’s complex engineer-
the Moon, and he also reveals stray arcs extending ing and design features to accommodate the three
up to 110 pixels; the arcs are thought to be due to different optical sensor systems, its geometric accu-
minor reflections within the sensor system. How- racy is quite good. The geometric performance
ever, collectively these artifacts are of very low parameters, based on Version 3.0 of the geometric
intensity, but they could help to explain blurred correction database, are provided in Table 6.4.
images of thermal boundaries shown below in The ASTER Science Team in early 2005 discov-
Section Although the MTF does little to ered three discrepancies that potentially affect the
obscure the positions of edges, absolute radiometry accuracy of the latitude/longitude values in ASTER
is sensitive to the MTF, which effectively defines the data. A brief description of these three discrep-
sizes of features where reliable thermal measure- ancies is provided below. ASTER data downloaded
ments or reflectances can be accurately assessed. before the problems were discovered and the correc-
tions implemented retained the errors, but all those Geometric corrections data were reprocessed going back to the beginning
of acquisitions.
ASTER’s geometric system correction primarily
involves rotation and coordinate transformation Earth rotation angle error
of the detectors’ line-of-sight vectors to Earth’s co-
ordinate system. This correction is accomplished as The first discrepancy is an incorrect calculation of
part of ASTER Level 1 processing at ASTER GDS the Earth’s rotation angle. This produced a geo-
with data derived from both the instrument and the location error of up to 300 m near the poles for
Terra spacecraft platform. This geometric correc- daytime scenes, and less than 100 m below 70
152 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

latitude. The longitude error for night-time scenes is of ASTER Level 1 SWIR data from March 2000
largest at the equator, and decreases to 100 m at through April 2008 exists both in the U.S. and
the poles. This error was completely modeled and Japan.
fixed with a polynomial correction, and then The loss of SWIR data impacts a number of
applied to all subsequent Level 1 data. dependent processes and activities. They include
cloud cover assessment that depends on radio- Nutation-related longitudinal error metrically calibrated band 4 (Level 1B) data to
discriminate clouds from snow/ice and desert.
The second discrepancy is omission of compensa- Others include SWIR parallax correction/regis-
tion for nutation in the Earth’s rotation. Nutation is tration, and intertelescope registration for VNIR,
defined as a slightly irregular oscillatory movement SWIR, and TIR. ASTER GDS has reprocessed all
or wobble in the axis of the Earth’s rotation. The Level 1 data affected by the deterioration of the
omission of compensation for nutation results in a SWIR sensor except for the band saturation issue.
longitude error that is dependent on the date of Further details regarding the SWIR sensor problem
ASTER data acquisition. In general, the magnitude are available at
of error is less than 50 m before July 2003 and has
since increased to about 200 m through the end of
2004. This discrepancy is corrected in all subsequent
STREAM Earth ellipsoid-related terrain error
6.4.1 Standard Level 1A and Level 1B
The third discrepancy is due to the fact that ASTER
processing uses the Earth ellipsoid (WGS 84) as the Since ASTER’s launch in 1999, the ASTER GDS in
reference datum, and does not take into account Japan has been responsible for Level 1 processing of
actual surface elevation. Therefore, terrain error ASTER data. This includes processing virtually all
is included in latitude and longitude values caused ASTER Level 0 data to Level 1A (L1A) data, as
by a difference between the WGS 84 ellipsoid and well as processing approximately one third of the
the actual Earth’s surface. The maximum displace- L1A data to level 1B (L1B) data. Copies of all L1A
ment is about 400 m over the Tibetan Plateau, with and L1B data processed by the ASTER GDS are
an 8.5 off-nadir view angle. This error is correctible sent to the LP DAAC for archiving and distribution
by using a digital elevation model to reduce or to users; and those who desire L1B data unavailable
remove this discrepancy. at the DAAC can order these data from the ASTER
GDS in Japan. One primary goal of the LP DAAC
is to process archived L1A data to L1B data, so that Loss of SWIR
users would have routine access to L1B data (and
The SWIR sensor operationally stopped producing higher level products) from the entire ASTER data
useful quality data in April 2008; since then only archive. In late 2005, an agreement was reached to
VNIR and TIR data have been acquired and pro- change the approach to ASTER L1 processing.
cessed. The SWIR sensor is equipped with a cryo- Under the new approach, the ASTER GDS con-
cooler designed to regulate a threshold operational tinues to process ASTER Level 0 data to L1A data,
temperature of 77 K. This temperature started and send copies of all L1A to the LP DAAC. The
rising gradually in September 2004, and was not a LP DAAC and the ASTER GDS each assume
major issue until the temperature rose beyond 83 K responsibility, using software developed by the
in mid-2007. Initial impacts were felt in the longer ASTER GDS, for processing on-demand L1B data
wavelength bands, but this spread to include all they distribute to their users and/or use to produce
SWIR bands by April 2008, after which SWIR higher level products ordered by their users. The
became useless. The ASTER Instrument Team’s ASTER GDS implemented the Level 1 on-demand
efforts to resolve this crisis included enhancing processing system on April 19, 2006, and the LP
the cryocooler’s performance, and an attempt to DAAC system became operational on May 24,
maintain a stable detector temperature at 77 K. 2006.
Though there were some positive results in the short Currently, 400 to 500 ASTER Level 1A products
term, the goal of stabilizing the detector’s operating are produced by the ASTER GDS in Japan on a
temperature was not successful. A historical record daily basis, and transmitted to the LP DAAC via
ASTER data-processing stream 153

Figure 6.1. ASTER data flow dynamics at the LP DAAC. Source: B. Ramachandran et al. (Eds.), Land Remote
Sensing and Global Environmental Change (& Springer, 2011).

the Asia Pacific Advanced Network. The LP ucts but also a suite of higher level products derived
DAAC, which maintains the same Level 1 algo- from any given sensor to characterize various geo-
rithms as the ASTER GDS, generates the desired physical parameters. This facilitates the needs of
Level 1B and higher level products for its NASA end users in a number of ways: It removes the
affiliates as well as U.S. federal partners, while the burden of preprocessing that would fall on them.
ASTER GDS serves all other customers. Fig. 6.1 It ensures the very best algorithms are used in con-
depicts the dynamics of data flow from satellite data formance with the best community practices, and it
acquisition through product generation (via pro- also confirms that methodologically consistent
duction and expedited data streams), which products are produced. Overall, it alleviates the
involves several entities. need for end users to expend a lot of time and
The ASTER mission is unique in that it does not resources in correctly implementing complex pro-
have a routine reprocessing campaign for Level 1 cessing steps, and, instead, allows them to readily
data. Since its launch in December 1999, ASTER use these products in their research, applications,
GDS has reprocessed all acquired data one time. analyses, and interpretations. A similar suite of
This took place when the public version of data was standard ASTER higher level products is produced
elevated from Version 2 to Version 3. The ASTER both in the U.S. and Japan (Watanabe et al. 2011).
GDS implemented this version change in May 2001 All descriptions in this chapter pertain to the U.S.
to accommodate substantial improvements in the production system and archives at the LP DAAC.
ASTER Level 1 algorithm. Since then the quality At the start of the ASTER mission, roughly half-a-
of Level 1B and higher level data products has been dozen standard higher level products were pro-
constrained by radiometric and geometric calibra- duced on demand (Watanabe et al. 2011). Three
tion parameters. Level 2 products—including a decorrelation stretch
(for all three sensors), brightness temperature at
sensor, and polar surface and cloud classification
6.4.2 ASTER standard higher level
product—were retired in May 2010 (JPL 2001).
A couple of additional variant products (SWIR
A hallmark of the NASA Earth Observing System crosstalk-corrected products and orthorectified
(EOS) mission is to generate not only L1 data prod- products) were introduced in 2006 and 2007, respec-
154 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

tively. Several higher level products described below affected because of their closeness to the Band 4
are important and highly subscribed products that detectors. Evidence of crosstalk, along with photon
serve the glaciology community in numerous ways. spread and ghosting effects, is visible in images with
strong contrast, especially coastlines and islands.
The Japanese ASTER Science Team developed Reflectance Suite
the original crosstalk correction algorithm that is
The ASTER L2 Surface Reflectance product is a used to correct an ASTER L1B dataset. The
higher level product that contains atmospherically original model is based on the fundamental under-
corrected VNIR and SWIR data. This product is standing that incident radiation to band 4, which is
generated using the three VNIR bands (between reflected or leaked to the other bands will follow a
0.52 mm and 0.86 mm) and six SWIR bands certain pattern of line shifts in the along-track direc-
(between 1.60 mm and 2.43 mm) derived from an tion. The kernel function used in the convolution
ASTER L1B dataset. The atmospheric correction (in the original algorithm) is not considered sym-
process derives a relationship between the surface metrical in the cross-track direction (Tonooka and
radiance/reflectance and top-of-the-atmosphere Iwasaki 2003, Iwasaki and Tonooka 2005). Using
radiance from information on the scattering and the Japanese crosstalk correction algorithm, the
absorption characteristics of the atmosphere. Once ASTER project at JPL has implemented a crosstalk
this relationship is established, it is used to convert correction process that is applied to ASTER L1B
original ASTER VNIR and SWIR radiance values data before deriving the reflectance product. This
to atmospherically corrected surface radiance and correction is implemented for processing at the LP
reflectance values. The atmospheric correction algo- DAAC and the ASTER GDS facility.
rithm is based on a lookup table (LUT) approach,
which uses results from a Gauss–Seidel iteration of Temperature/Emissivity Suite
a radiative transfer code (RTC). This methodology
derives from the University of Arizona Remote The ASTER L2 Surface Kinetic Temperature prod-
Sensing Group’s reflectance-based vicarious cali- uct (AST08) is generated using the five TIR bands
bration approach (ATBD 1999). The algorithm is acquired either during daytime or night-time
based on the relationship between the angular dis- between 8 and 12 mm spectral range. It contains
tribution of radiance, atmospheric scattering and surface temperatures at 90 m spatial resolution
absorption, and surface properties. The RTC used for land areas only. Derived using the same algo-
to generate the LUT for atmospheric correction is rithm as that of Surface Emissivity, Surface Kinetic
based on the following parameters: solar zenith Temperature is determined by applying Planck’s
angle, satellite view angle, relative azimuth angle Law using the emissivity values from the tem-
between the satellite and Sun, molecular scattering perature emissivity separation (TES) algorithm
optical depth, aerosol scattering optical depth, (Gillespie et al. 1998), which uses atmospherically
aerosol scatter albedo, aerosol size distribution corrected ASTER Surface Radiance (TIR) data. In
parameter, and surface reflectance. A digital response to changes in certain input variables, some
elevation model provides slope and elevation infor- modifications were implemented in the TES algo-
mation required to accurately model surface reflec- rithm. What follows is a brief description of the
tance. This suite also includes a SWIR crosstalk- original algorithm, and subsequent changes as well.
corrected reflectance product. A description of the The TES algorithm first estimates emissivities in
SWIR crosstalk problem follows. the TIR channels using the Normalized Emissivity
The ASTER SWIR sensor is affected by a cross- Method (NEM) (Gillespie et al. 1998). These esti-
talk signal-scattering problem, a phenomenon dis- mates are used along with Kirchhoff ’s Law to
covered after ASTER’s launch. The source of the account for land-leaving TIR radiance that is due
crosstalk problem is the ASTER band 4 detector, to sky irradiance. That figure is subtracted from
whose incident light is reflected by the detector’s TIR radiance iteratively (pixel by pixel) to estimate
aluminum-coated parts (especially from the area emitted radiance from which temperature is calcu-
between the detector plane and bandpass filter), lated using the NEM module. Estimates of surface
and is then projected onto the other detectors (Arai emissivity were derived using surrogates such as
et al. 2011). The band-to-band parallax effect and land cover type or vegetation index. The TES algo-
the distance between the CCD array pairs further rithm is used to derive both " (emissivity) and T
worsen the problem. Bands 9 and 5 are most (surface temperature). Its main goals include
ASTER data-processing stream 155

recovering accurate and precise emissivities for glacier analysis results from the Chugach Moun-
mineral substrates, and estimating accurate and tains, including Bering Glacier.) The image shows
precise surface temperatures especially over vegeta- that a huge fraction of the glacier area—both snow-
tion, water, and snow. A linear regression approach fields and exposed glacier ice (including areas of
replaced the original nonlinear one when it became slightly dirty ice)—have fairly homogeneous tem-
clear that precision was being sacrificed in favor of peratures (Fig. 6.2B). The image date was August
accuracy.1 8, 2003 (the fourth author visited the area twice at
The TES algorithm is executed in the ASTER about the same time of year in 2008 and 2009),
processing chain after ASTER L2 (land-leaving) when snow and ice across almost the whole region
Surface Radiance (TIR) data are generated. was melting, and supraglacial ponds and streams
Land-leaving radiance and downwelling irradiance or wet snow covered almost the entire surface of
vectors for each pixel are taken into account. The the glaciers (which were not debris covered), includ-
emissivity spectrum is normalized using the average ing the small accumulation areas. A reasonable
emissivity of each pixel. The minimum–maximum assumption emerging from this is that the homo-
difference (MMD) of the normalized spectrum is geneous temperature field across glacier and snow-
calculated and estimates of the minimum emissivity field surfaces in this image are almost everywhere
derived through regression analysis (Matsunaga, precisely at the melting point, thus 273.15 K.
1994) are made. These estimates are used to scale Three sample areas were selected for extraction of
normalized emissivity and compensate for reflected temperature histograms (Fig. 6.2G). The areas
skylight using the derived refinement of emissivity include a large, melting snowfield; a large expanse
(Gillespie et al., 1998). Over time, certain algorithm of melting glacier ice; and the small, iceberg-
modifications have been made in response to several cluttered remnant of Iceberg Lake, which at that
factors that include the ASTER TIR sensor’s time would have been a pond filled with melting
change in sensitivity response, the frequency of icebergs, bergy bits, brash ice, and ice-cold, turbid
updates to its calibration coefficients, and imperfec- water. Each of these areas shows histograms shifted
tions in atmospheric compensation, etc. (Gustafson well to the warm side of the melting point of water
et al., 2006). The modifications include turning off ice. For areas 1 and 2, the shift is identified as
iterative compensation of spectral irradiance, one- indicating a temperature bias of about þ1.2 K;
time correction, and linear scaling of the normal- the spread of values for areas 1 and 2 is consistent
ized emissivity spectrum. with the formally stated 1 K uncertainty. We have
A key higher level TIR-derived data product is noted a comparable bias in many other scenes; this
surface kinetic temperature (AST08), which is appears to be fairly general for the ASTER TIR
derived from all five ASTER TIR bands. kinetic temperature product in snow, ice, and water
ASTER-derived kinetic temperature image data areas, which might be related to emissivity assump-
are used in various chapters but are not validated tions for these materials. In the case of area 3, the
elsewhere in this book, so here we dedicate some more substantial positive shift may be due to unre-
attention to this dataset’s performance relative to solved debris patches, but considering our discus-
glacier studies. sion in Section, we think it could be due to
Fig. 6.2 (see also Online Supplement 6.1) includes bleeding of high-temperature signals onto the cold
a kinetic temperature image of part of the Chugach pixels of this lake; in other words, the lake is not
and Saint Elias Mountains, the Bagley Icefield, Ber- fully resolved, despite the formal 90 m resolution of
ing Glacier, and Iceberg Lake area, Alaska. (See TIR and the published modulation transfer func-
Chapter 12 of this book by Wolfe et al. for a tion (Arai and Tonooka 2005). Thus, anyone doing
detailed glaciological case study on Iceberg Lake thermal work with ASTER data should keep a
and environs and Chapter 13 by Kargel et al. for watchful eye on such bias and resolution issues.

Precision pertains to the level of measurement and Detection versus full resolution of features
exactness of description within a GIS database (e.g., in VNIR, SWIR, and TIR
the number of decimal positions irrespective of whether
the number is accurate). Accuracy is the degree to which Users also should remain aware of another feature
information on a map or GIS database matches true or of ASTER TIR data, which is its spatial resolution,
accepted values, irrespective of the number of decimal formally 90 m/pixel (versus 15 m/pixel for VNIR
positions. and 30 m/pixel for SWIR). However, in practice it is
156 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

Figure 6.2. Performance of ASTER TIR as shown in the kinetic temperature standard product for an image
acquired on August 8, 2003, over the Chugach Mountains, Alaska. Figs. 6.2E and 6.2F show some manually
delineated major, sharp material boundaries; the temperature image shows that the boundaries are diffuse over
about 5 TIR pixels (2 or 3 pixels on either side of the boundaries). Fig. 6.2H shows histogram distributions of
measured temperatures for three areas (Fig. 6.2G) that nominally should be almost pure snow or ice at the melting
point. The image within the three outlined sample areas has been stretched so that the full DN range is shown in
order to reveal thermal heterogeneity within; the fine structure is mainly noise. The place name ‘‘Kieffer Glacier’’ in
panel 6.2C is informal (see Chapter 12 of this book by Wolfe et al.). See Online Supplement 6.1 for full resolution.
DN ¼ digital number.
ASTER data-processing stream 157

Figure 6.3. Schematic illustration of ASTER image detection and spatial resolvability of rectangular and circular
features using VNIR and SWIR (approximated in panel A) and TIR (approximated in panel B). The diagrams show
some pixel lines across schematic anomalies that are, from left to right, either long and linear but subpixel in width,
subpixel in both length and width, fully resolved spatially (so that at least one pixel in each crossing transect senses
photons only from the anomaly material), or circular and fully resolved. The top and bottom panels (A and B,
respectively) show cases for either sharp, square wave responses along material discontinuities (panel A), or where
thermally hot pixels bleed the signal into adjoining pixels as far as 2 pixels away (panel B). In each case, ‘‘w’’ is the
pixel size (15 m for VNIR, 30 m for SWIR, 90 m for TIR). See text for further detailed explanation.

quite different than that. Sharply contrasting cold consists of ‘‘mixels’’ of two materials in each pixel
and warm objects are not resolved as clearly as the falling on top of the lineament), but it may be
formal pixel resolution would suggest. Warm tar- detectable and mappable. A subpixel patch (smaller
gets tend to bleed onto adjacent cold targets. This than a pixel in width and length) may appear as a
has been documented by the ASTER Calibration single anomalous pixel, where the significance
Team (Arai and Tonooka 2005), but what we have depends on background fluctuations and whether
found could suggest a slightly broader blurring of the patch contributes enough to distinguish the
sharp boundaries. Fig. 6.2F portrays this well, par- mixel from background pixel values; however, a
ticularly along the sharply delineated shore of Ice- solitary subpixel anomaly would not likely en-
berg Lake, which appears diffuse over about 5 TIR gender much interest; for one thing, it could be a
pixels, rather than the 2 pixels if the response of single bad pixel.
TIR for a sharp boundary was more nearly a square A fully spatially resolved anomalous lineament
wave across the boundary. (e.g., a medial moraine) must have a width of at
This brings us to a discussion of detection versus least 2 pixels (30 m for VNIR, 60 m for SWIR) in
full resolution of features. Consider a hot target order to be assured that at least one pixel along any
surrounded by a uniform cold body. We refer to transect encompasses the anomaly material; how-
Fig. 6.3, which schematically illustrates some reso- ever, as Fig. 6.3A shows, a 2-pixel-wide lineament
lution issues encountered in Fig. 6.2. We start with will generally be resolved with an apparent width of
optical sensor resolution, which is more widely 3 pixels, due to the presence of mixels. A circular
known and can illustrate some key points applic- anomaly patch (e.g., an exposure of ice or a pond in
able to thermal data as well. With VNIR and SWIR an otherwise debris-covered patch of a glacier) must
(Fig. 6.3A) a lineament that is long but much less have a minimum diameter of 2 3=2 pixels (42 m for
than a pixel wide is not resolved in width (thus, it VNIR, 85 m for SWIR) in order to be fully spatially
158 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

resolved (to have at least one pixel that is not a pletely resolved; their temperature histograms indi-
mixel). cate a positive temperature bias of 1.2 K, a value
ASTER TIR data have an added complication, similar to that in several other TIR temperature
and this is our prime reason for dealing with this scenes of glaciers that we have examined. Bias cor-
issue here, since it is not discussed elsewhere. A rection could be applied to Fig. 6.2B (but has not
thermal anomaly can be as small as 1 TIR pixel been) by subtracting 1.2 K. The spread of values in
(even smaller if it is hot enough) and have its pres- the histograms for areas 1 and 2 (standard deviation
ence detectable; that is, with a sufficiently cooler around 0.5 K; Fig. 6.2H) is consistent with the
and uniform background, a subpixel patch of ther- ASTER project’s stated formal error of 1 K for
mally anomalous material might be detectable, but this temperature region (Table 6.1). Of course this is
not resolvable; the hot object may appear noise- just one image, but the validation appears reason-
like, and could be confused with a bad pixel value. able and is typical. Users can rely on ASTER
For TIR, the situation is complicated because of kinetic temperature products but must be aware
the bleeding of hot pixel energies onto what should of (and preferably correct) bias.
be cold pixels if we had a perfect imaging system.
We will assume that this type of thermal blurring Elevation products
occurs over about 2 pixels away from a sharp
boundary. For a linear cold anomaly (e.g., a linear One of the unique capabilities of the ASTER VNIR
patch of debris-free ice adjoined by Sun-warmed sensor is its aft-viewing telescope that enables it to
debris-covered ice), full resolution and thus reliable generate stereoscopic data (along with the nadir-
thermal measurements of the anomaly would viewing telescope) to create digital elevation
require it to have a width of 6 TIR pixels (i.e., models. From April 2001 to May 2006, LP DAAC
540 m) in order to contain just 1 pixel representing produced both ASTER relative (without GCPs)
the anomaly temperature without contamination and absolute (with user-supplied GCPs) DEMs
from adjacent warm pixels (Fig. 6.3B). A homo- using ASTER L1A input data. The DEM produc-
geneous, circular, cold feature (e.g., an ice-cold lake tion system involved a human operator, and was
surrounded by debris-covered ice) would require a designed to generate one or two DEMs per day.
diameter of (2 3=2 þ 3) pixels (525 m) to assure that Hence, following an extensive assessment of the
at least one TIR pixel measures the actual tempera- accuracy of ASTER relative DEMs produced by
ture near the center of that cold anomaly. However, a variety of ASTER DEM generation software,
in terms of how ASTER TIR sees (detects) such an the Japanese SilcAst software with a capacity to
anomaly, the blurring would cause the minimally produce 50 or more ASTER relative DEMs per
resolved circular feature (525 m in diameter) to day in batch mode operation, was implemented at
appear 11 VNIR pixels wide (990 m). Fig. 6.3B LP DAAC. The accuracy of the new DEMs meets
suggests that in surveying ASTER TIR and derived or exceeds the specifications set for ASTER relative
data, any thermal anomaly showing in the image DEMs by the Algorithm Theoretical Basis Docu-
must have an apparent size of a kilometer or larger ment (ATBD). Toutin (2011) provides an extensive
in order to give any realistic hope of giving a direct history and description of standard ASTER DEM
accurate measurement of the actual anomaly tem- production systems as they evolved in both the U.S.
perature; the corresponding actual critical size of an and Japan.
anomaly (as measured on the ground, for instance) NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade
would be about half a kilometer. Model-based and Industry (METI) jointly developed the ASTER
approaches may provide adequate estimates of Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM), Version
actual temperatures for slightly unresolved features. 1 (GDEM-1), which was released in June 2009 and
The case in Fig. 6.2 shows Iceberg Lake near the provides elevation data for 99% of the Earth’s land
critical size for full spatial resolvability. However, it areas. GDEM-1 was produced in Japan by
is questionable, given the warm measured tempera- the Sensor Information Laboratory Corporation
tures of Iceberg Lake (high 270s K; Fig. 6.2H), (SILC), a Japanese company that promotes
whether even one TIR pixel in Iceberg Lake is com- ASTER data use in science and industry through
pletely uncontaminated by emissions from adjacent the DEM, orthorectification, and L1B software it
warmer material. develops exclusively for ASTER data. SILC pro-
The larger patches of melting snow and ice (areas duced GDEM-1 by automated processing of 1.5
1 and 2 in Figs. 6.2G and 6.2H) are certainly com- million ASTER Level 1A scenes through stereo
ASTER data for GLIMS: STARS, DARs, gain settings, and image seasons 159

correlation to generate 1,264,118 individual scene- edging the existence of some remaining artifacts
based ASTER DEMs. Further cloud masking, (Gesch et al. 2012).
stacking cloud-screened DEMs, eliminating out- Chapter 5 of this book by Quincey et al. includes
liers/bad values, averaging selected data to create validation test results relating to digital topography
final pixel values, and correcting residual anomalies produced from ASTER stereo images, including
yielded data that were partitioned into 1  1 tiles. single scenes and GDEMs; several regional chapters
GDEM-1 covers land surfaces between 83 N and review or present data analysis that make use of
83 S in 22,600 1  1 tiles. The vertical and hori- bias determination and correction. The regional
zontal accuracies estimated at preproduction were chapters include many applications of elevation
20 and 30 m, respectively (at 95% confidence level). data; the most sensitive of these involve differential
GDEM-1 validation studies indicate that accuracies elevations, whether elevation change, or high-
vary and are not met uniformly, and also acknowl- frequency slope or roughness assessments, or shift-
edge that there exists an average global bias of ing equilibrium line altitudes. The GLIMS com-
 5 m. Chrysoulakis et al. (2011) found that pre- munity has produced many validation tests of
production accuracies are not met in their analysis ASTER elevation products and analysis of glacier-
of GDEM-1 data over Greece. Both NASA and ized terrain after application of validation tests and
METI acknowledged that though this version of corrections. For example, the scene average bias in
GDEM is deemed experimental its potential bene- multitemporal elevation changes was determined
fits outweigh its flaws. for a pair of ASTER DEMs in the Hoodoo Moun-
GDEM Version 2 (GDEM-2) was released in tain area, British Columbia (see Chapter 15 of this
October 2011. GDEM-2 incorporates an additional book by Kargel et al.); the bias was small enough
260,000 newly acquired scenes (not available during that a first-order correction made a small but suffi-
the GDEM-1 time frame), many of which were cient correction related to derivation of glacier mass
specifically targeted to help fill holes in ASTER’s balance. Other works have shown not just scene
global coverage due to persistent cloud cover. average bias, but slope and aspect-dependent biases
Major algorithm updates to GDEM-2 include the (Nuth and Kääb 2011, Gardelle et al. 2012a, b),
following (Tachikawa et al. 2011): which in some cases could be significant sources
of error if not corrected.
1. A change in the window size for normalized
correlation matching to measure elevation from
9  9 pixels (in GDEM-1) to 5  5 pixels to pro-
duce finer horizontal resolutions.
2. Adjustments to the elevation offset (established
at around 5 m in GDEM-1).
Glacier monitoring (GLIMS) was accepted as an
3. Enhanced water body detection to help identify
official ASTER Science Team investigation from
those as small as 1 km 2 .
the earliest days of ASTER. Although GLIMS is
not tied strictly to ASTER, it has been a corner-
The GDEM-2 validation study performed by the stone of the project. GLIMS became operational in
U.S. and Japanese partners revealed that its abso- 2000 shortly after ASTER’s launch. Four types of
lute vertical accuracy was within 0.20 m on aver- observations are conducted by ASTER that are of
age when compared against 18,000 geodetic control use to GLIMS (Yamaguchi et al. 1998, and
points over the conterminous U.S. at an accuracy of modified subsequently by the ASTER Science Team
17 m at the 95% confidence level (Gesch et al. and Mission Operations Team). They include (1)
2012). Both U.S. and Japanese investigations found ASTER Science Team Acquisition Requests
improvements in the horizontal resolution between (STARs) explicitly for GLIMS, (2) standard Data
71 and 82 m; however, this improvement was Acquisition Requests (DARs), (3) emergency
realized at the cost of some additional noise. The DARs, and (4) all other imaging by other teams
prevalence of artifacts and voids in GDEM-1 and for other purposes, such as volcano STARs
were largely reduced in GDEM-2 with complete and global mapping STARs.
elimination in some areas. Given some major The small field of view of the ASTER instrument
improvements, the GDEM Validation Team as well as its pointing capability mean that the
recommended GDEM-2’s release, while acknowl- instrument must be scheduled to acquire images
160 ASTER datasets and derived products for global glacier monitoring

over specific targets in response to users’ needs. For goals of the ASTER project, such as global map-
ASTER to acquire imagery over a specific ping, have acquired tens of thousands of other use-
glacierized region, it needs to be scheduled to turn ful glacier images, though usually not with gain
on at the correct time, with correct instrument set- settings that are well suited for snow and ice targets;
tings for highly reflective material (snow), and poss- hence, heavy saturation reduces the usefulness of
ibly commanded to point off-nadir. For the GLIMS those scenes. However, what is lost in global map-
STARs, we needed to create a set of approximately ping images over snow and ice areas is gained in
1,760 data acquisition requests to cover all known added detail over heavily debris-covered areas,
glaciers in the world. Each such request needs to glacier lakes, and in shadowed areas. Hence, the
contain a number of types of information in order full suite of ASTER imagery provides for comple-
to adequately schedule the instrument: geographic mentary coverage of different glaciers and different
location, in the form of a longitude/latitude parts of glaciers. Furthermore, global map scenes
polygonal outline of the area (consisting of 20 or are needed to help fill in the digital topography
fewer vertices); instrument gain settings (similar to needed for GDEM production.
exposure in photography); optimal time of year for The gaps in coverage (especially multitemporal
imaging glaciers in that area; and information coverage) have been used to justify some special
about the requestor. We wrote dedicated software increased local coverage, submitted either individ-
to calculate optimal time of year and gains based on ually or by the project PI, in the form of standard
solar geometry. These were then formatted and sent data acquisition requests. This category also
to the ground systems personnel in Japan for input includes images obtained in support of field cam-
into the master scheduling system. The process of paigns. Emergency acquisitions have also been
creating these original data requests is documented requested and fulfilled for prompt follow-up
in Raup et al. 2000. imaging after natural disasters, such as outburst
While this first set of STARs led to good image floods, ice avalanches, and rockfall damming of
acquisition over many of the world’s glacierized rivers (Kargel et al. 2010), as well as following other
regions, some regions were not so lucky, due to a special dynamical events, such as the breakup of the
variety of reasons. After the second year in the Mertz Glacier tongue in Antarctica. As with the
mission, we were given the opportunity to change STARs, these special requests have proven uneven
the STARs to compensate for uneven past perform- in their success, due mainly to the challenge of
ance. Updates have been made repeatedly to try to cloudy conditions that prevail in many glacierized
compensate for deficiencies in acquisitions, such as areas.
excessive snow cover, excessive frequency of cloudy In sum, though overall coverage still remains
images, or simply lack of image acquisitions due to uneven, ASTER has been revolutionary for glacier
constraints imposed by ASTER Mission Opera- remote sensing due both to the instrument’s ex-
tions (MO). MO has, for instance, for engineering quisite capabilities and to the liberal data dissemi-
reasons required a drastic cutback in pointing, nation policies.
which has eliminated most imaging of high-latitude
parts of Antarctica and has reduced other imaging
opportunities. Some large regions of the world,
such as Alaska, have been considerably underserved
due to constraints imposed on MO by competing
imaging needs in places like Iraq and Afghanistan 6.6 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
and for other reasons. Major recent modifications
of the GLIMS STARs were developed by GLIMS We would like to thank Masami Hato (ERSDAC,
over several years of successive installments to Tokyo), Ken Duda (LP DAAC, Sioux Falls), and
help reduce the amount of saturation common in Bjorn Eng (JPL, Pasadena) for their help in track-
ASTER VNIR images over equator-facing, ing down certain critical details of the ASTER mis-
snow-covered slopes in some regions, as well as to sion. We also thank Alan Gillespie (University of
shift the imaging seasons slightly to reduce snow Washington, Seattle) for his updates and clarifica-
cover. tions regarding the TES algorithm. ASTER data
While the GLIMS project has succeeded in cap- courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/Japan Space Sys-
turing tens of thousands of high-quality glacier tems, the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team, and
images, coverage remains uneven. Other science the GLIMS project.
References 161

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