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Snow surface albedo estimation using terrestrial photography

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A flexible and inexpensive remote sensing tool for albedo estimation using conventional terrestrial photography and its validation on an Alpine glacier are described. The proposed technique involves georeferencing oblique photographs to a digital elevation model (DEM), defining a mapping function between the information contained on a given pixel of the image and the corresponding cell of the DEM. This is attained by performing a perspective projection of the DEM after a viewing transformation into the camera coordinate system. Once the image is georeferenced, the reflectance values recorded by the film or digital camera are corrected for topographic and atmospheric influences and for the effect of the photographic process (lens-film-developing-scanning). Atmospheric transmittance is evaluated using the MODTRAN radiative transfer model. Diffuse and direct irradiation are estimated using a parametric solar irradiation model. The solar-ground geometry, anisotropy of reflected radiation, the effect of surrounding topography and the portion of visible sky are evaluated using terrain algorithms applied to the DEM. The response of the camera-film-scanner system is evaluated using an empirical approach. The result is a geographically correct map of normalized reflectance values. By comparing these to a surface of known albedo, the spatial distribution of albedos is calculated. Comparisons to in situ measurements on the Mer de Glace glacier, French Alps, show good agreement. Sources of error are identified and ways of improvement addressed. The georeferencing algorithm, implemented into the Interactive Data Language (IDL) is available from the author and at the user contributed IDL library at

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-12-01

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