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Normalizing shadows in multi-temporal aerial frame imagery using relative radiometric adjustments to support near-real-time change detection

Storey, Emanuel Arnal, Stow, Douglas Alan, Plummer, Matthew James
GIScience & remote sensing 2019 v.56 no.1 pp. 22-42
radiometry, reflectance, regression analysis, remote sensing, variance
This study addresses the problem of shadows in multi-temporal imagery, which is a key issue with change detection approaches based on image comparison. We apply image-to-image radiometric normalizations including histogram matching (HM), mean-variance (MV) equalization, linear regression based on pseudo-invariant features (PIF-LR), and radiometric control sets (RCS) representing high- and low-reflectance extrema, for the novel purpose of normalizing brightness of transient shadows in high spatial resolution, bi-temporal, aerial frame image sets. Efficient shadow normalization is integral to remote sensing procedures that support disaster response efforts in a near-real-time fashion, including repeat station image (RSI) capture, wireless data transfer, shadow detection (as precursor to shadow normalization), and change detection based on image differencing and visual interpretation. We apply the normalization techniques to imagery of suburban scenes containing shadowed materials of varied spectral reflectance characteristics, whereby intensity (average of red, green, and blue spectral band values) under fully illuminated conditions is known from counterpart reference images (time-1 versus time-2). We evaluate the normalization results using stratified random pixel samples within transient shadows, considering central tendency and variance of differences in intensity relative to the unnormalized images. Overall, MV equalization yielded superior results in our tests, reducing the radiometric effects of shadowing by more than 85 percent. The HM and PIF-LR approaches showed slightly lower performance than MV, while the RCS approach proved unreliable among scenes and among stratified intensity levels. We qualitatively evaluate a shadow normalization based on MV equalization, describing its utility and limitations when applied in change detection. Application of image-to-image radiometric normalization for brightening shadowed areas in multi-temporal imagery in this study proved efficient and effective to support change detection.