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Downscaling MODIS LST in the East African mountains using elevation gradient and land-cover information

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Land-surface temperature (LST) is strongly affected by altitude and surface albedo. In mountain regions where steep slopes and heterogeneous land cover are predominant, LST can vary significantly within short distances. Although remote sensing currently provides opportunities for monitoring LST in inaccessible regions, the coarse resolution of some sensors may result in large uncertainties at sub-pixel scales. This study aimed to develop a simple methodology for downscaling 1 km Moderate Resolution Spectroradiometer (MODIS) LST pixels, by accounting for sub-pixel LST variation associated with altitude and land-cover spatial changes. The approach was tested in Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, where changes in altitude and vegetation can take place over short distances. Daytime and night-time MODIS LST estimates were considered separately. A digital elevation model (DEM) and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), both at 250 m spatial resolution, were used to assess altitude and land-cover changes, respectively. Simple linear regressions and multivariate regressions were used to quantify the relationship between LST and the independent variables, altitude and NDVI. The results show that, in Kilimanjaro, altitude variation within the area covered by a 1 km MODIS LST pixel can be up to ±300 m. These altitude changes can cause sub-pixel variation of up to ±2.13°C for night-time and ±2.88°C for daytime LST. NDVI variation within 1 km pixels ranged between –0.2 and 0.2. For night-time measurements, altitude explained up to 97% of LST variation, while daytime LST was strongly affected by land cover. Using multivariate regressions, the combination of altitude and NDVI explained up to 94% of daytime LST variation in Kilimanjaro. Finally, the downscaling approach proposed in this study allowed an improved representation of the influence of landscape features on local-scale LST patterns.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, 00014, Finland

Publication date: May 3, 2014

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