US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (2013) 51(3): 1056-1080. DOI: 10.1109/TGRS.2012.2228654


Intercalibration of satellite instruments is critical for detection and quantification of changes in the Earth’s environment, weather forecasting, understanding climate processes, and monitoring climate and land cover change. These applications use data from many satellites; for the data to be interoperable, the instruments must be cross-calibrated. To meet the stringent needs of such applications, instruments must provide reliable, accurate, and consistent measurements over time. Robust techniques are required to ensure that observations from different instruments can be normalized to a common scale that the community agrees on. The long-term reliability of this process needs to be sustained in accordance with established reference standards and best practices. Furthermore, establishing physical meaning to the information through robust Système International d’unités traceable calibration and validation (Cal/Val) is essential to fully understand the parameters under observation. The processes of calibration, correction, stabilitymonitoring, and quality assurance need to be underpinned and evidenced by comparison with “peer instruments” and, ideally, highly calibrated in-orbit reference instruments. Intercalibration between instruments is a central pillar of the Cal/Val strategies of many national and international satellite remote sensing organizations. Intercalibration techniques as outlined in this paper not only provide a practical means of identifying and correcting relative biases in radiometric calibration between instruments but also enable potential data gaps between measurement records in a critical time series to be bridged. Use of a robust set of internationally agreed upon and coordinated intercalibration techniques will lead to significant improvement in the consistency between satellite instruments and facilitate accurate monitoring of the Earth’s climate at uncertainty levels needed to detect and attribute the mechanisms of change. This paper summarizes the state-of-the-art of postlaunch radiometric calibration of remote sensing satellite instruments through intercalibration.