Contribution of multispectral and multitemporal information from MODIS images to land cover classification

Hugo Carrão, Paulo Gonçalves, Mário Caetano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


The goal of this study is to evaluate the relative usefulness of high spectral and temporal resolutions of MODIS imagery data for land cover classification. In particular, we highlight the individual and combinatorial influence of spectral and temporal components of MODIS reflectance data in land cover classification. Our study relies on an annual time series of twelve MODIS 8-days composited images (MOD09A1) monthly acquired during the year 2000, at a 500 m nominal resolution. As our aim is not to propose an operational classifier directed at thematic mapping based on the most efficient combination of reflectance inputs - which will probably change across geographical regions and with different land cover nomenclatures - we intentionally restrict our experimental framework to continental Portugal. Because our observation data stream contains highly correlated components, we need to rank the temporal and the spectral features according not only to their individual ability at separating the land cover classes, but also to their differential contribution to the existing information. To proceed, we resort to the median Mahalanobis distance as a statistical separability criterion. Once achieved this arrangement, we strive to evaluate, in a classification perspective, the gain obtained when the dimensionality of the input feature space grows. We then successively embedded the prior ranked measures into the multitemporal and multispectral training data set of a Support Vector Machines (SVM) classifier. In this way, we show that, only the inclusion of the approximately first three dates substantially increases the classification accuracy. Moreover, this multitemporal factor has a significant effect when coupled with combinations of few spectral bands, but it turns negligible as soon as the full spectral information is exploited. Regarding the multispectral factor, its beneficence on classification accuracy remains more constant, regardless of the number of dates being used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)986-997
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2008


  • Land cover classification
  • MODIS intra-annual composite data
  • Statistical separability analysis
  • Support Vector Machines

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