Systematic validation of Sentinel-2 THEIA L2A products


Very recently, Camille Desjardins (from CNES), who is handling the validation of the L2A products generated by THEIA, has set up a systematic validation of the products delivered by MAJA, with the help of an operational service from CNES (OT/PE) (Bruno Besson, and Nicolas Guilleminot from Thales Services, using tools developed by Aurélie Courtois, also from Thales)


Systematically, a comparison of AOT and water vapour is made for every Sentinel-2 L2A product from THEIA which observes one of the sites of the Aeronet network.


Both plots below show the results obtained during the month of February, for the Aerosol Optical Thickness (left), and for the water vapour content (right). Blue dots correspond to validations in ideal conditions (low cloud amount, no gap filling, and quality assured Aeronet data (Level 2.0). The red dots allow degraded conditions, and most of them correspond to the unavailability, yet, of version 2.0 Aeronet data. As data are processed in near real time, and level 2.0 data are made available a few months later, these plots rely mainly on Level 1.5 data, which are more prone to errors (such as a calibration drift... or the presence of a spider in the instrument tubes).


Aerosol optical thickness validation of Sentinel-2 L2A for all Aeronet match-ups gathered in February 2018 Water vapour validation of Sentinel-2 L2A for all Aeronet match-ups gathered in February 2018 (in g/cm2)


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[MUSCATE News] Reprocessing of Sentinel-2B data aquired from July to October 2017


MUSCATE is in a good shape these days thznkd to the continuous efforts of the development team (CNES and CAP GEMINI) who solved several issues. The counter of Sentinel-2 Level 2A products reached 70 000 products this night, just one month after reaching 60000. If we sum all the products delivered by MUSCATE, we are reaching 99 000 images. MUSCATE also distributes Sentinel-2 Snow masks over mountains, and Spot World Heritage data (old SPOT data reprocessed after ortho-rectification.and made available for free).


This good shape allows us to increase our production rhythm. We have started processing the Sentinel-2B data acquired between July and October 2017, as we had started processing S2B in November 2017 only. But since MAJA is a multi-temporal processor, we are in fact starting a complete reprocessing of the data, including S2A and S2B. The quality of S2A products should therefore also benefit from the improved repetitivity of observations.


This reprocessing will last several weeks. We are starting with data from France and will go on with our neighbouring European countries, then sites in Maghreb, the remaining sites of Africa, and finally, the rest of the sites in the world.


In case you have an urgent need for some tiles, please ask ! (of course, it is only applicable to the tiles already in our list)




Another validation of CESBIO's 2016 France land-cover map

In this post, a validation of the land-cover map of France produced by CESBIO for the 2016 period was presented. This validation used independent data (that is data collected by different teams and using different procedures than the data used for the classifier training), but the validation procedure consisted in applying classical machine learning metrics which, as described in this other post, have some limitations.

A fully independent validation following a sound protocol is costly and needs skills and expertise that are very specific. SIRS is a company which is specialised in the production of geographic data from satellite or aerial images. Among other things, they are the producers of Corine Land Cover for France and they are also responsible for quality control and validation of other Copernicus Land products.

SIRS has recently performed a validation of the 2016 France land-cover map. The executive summary of the report reads as follows:

This report provides the evaluation results of the CESBIO OSO 2016 10m layer and the CESBIO OSO 2016 20m layer.

The thematic accuracy assessment was conducted in a two-stage process:

  1. An initial blind interpretation in which the validation team did not have knowledge of the product’s thematic classes.
  2. A plausibility analysis was performed on all sample units in disagreement with the production data to consider the following cases:
  • Uncertain code, both producer and operator codes are plausible. Final validation code used is producer code.
  • Error from first validation interpretation. Final validation used is producer code
  • Error from producer. Final validation code used is from first validation interpretation
  • Producer and operator are both wrong. Final Validation code used is a new code from this second interpretation.

Resulting to this two-stage approach, it should be noticed that the plausibility analysis exhibit better results than the blind analysis.

The thematic accuracy assessment was carried out over 1,428 sample units covering France and Corsica.
The final results show that the CESBIO OSO product meet the usually accepted thematic validation requirement, i.e. 85 % in both blind interpretation and plausibility analysis. Indeed, the overall accuracies obtained are 81.4 +/- 3.68% for the blind analysis and 91.7 +/- 1.25% for the plausibility analysis on the CESBIO OSO 10m layer. The analysis on the 20m layer shows us that the overall accuracy for the blind approach is 81.1 +/-3.65% and 88.2 +/-3.15% for the plausibility approach.
Quality checks of the validation points have been made by French experts. It should be noticed that for the blind analysis, the methodology of control was based mostly on Google Earth imagery, no additional thematic source of information that could provide further context was used such as forest stand maps, peatland maps, etc.

These results are very good news for us and for our users. The report also contains interesting recommendations that will help us to improve our algorithms. The full report is available for download.

Theia produit au niveau 2A toute la bande côtière du Maghreb

Les tuiles en bleu viennent d'être ajoutées aux zones où Theia fournit des produits de niveau 2A.


Depuis la découverte des récents bugs et la mise en place de moyens de les contourner, le rythme de  production de MUSCATE s'est accru, et nous avons donc pu étendre un peu les zones où nous fournissons des données Sentinel-2 (A&B) corrigées des effets atmosphériques, avec un bon masque de nuages: il s'agit de produits de niveau 2A fournis par la chaîne MAJA.


Nous venons de mettre en ligne toutes les données acquises sur la zone côtière du Maghreb, du Maroc à la frontière entre Algérie et Tunisie. Quelques tuiles manquantes ont également été rajoutées au sud du Maroc, et sur le Cap Bon, en Tunisie. Avec cet ajout de 50 tuiles, toutes les terres qui bordent la méditerranée occidentale sont donc suivies pat les produits de Theia (enfin, il manque les Baléares).

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[MUSCATE] Theia releases Sentinel-2 L2A products on the whole Maghreb coastal region

The blue tiles were just added to the zones where Theia provides level 2A products with MAJA.


Since we understood the bugs which were slowing MUSCATE, and we found ways to mitigate them, the production rhythm of MUSCATE improved and we were able to extend the zones where we provide Sentinel-2 (A&B) L2A products. L2A products provide surface reflectances after correction of atmospheric effects and with a high quality cloud mask. The products we deliver are provided by MAJA processor.


We just released all the data acquired on the Maghreb coastal zone, from Morocco to Tunisia. A few missing tiles have also been added in South Morocco, and on Cap Bon in Tunisia. With these new tiles, we now monitor all the lands that surround the occidental part of Mediterranean sea, adding 50 tiles to those already processed.

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[MUSCATE news] Distribution server in maintenance

New update: Muscate distribution server is back but you should use the following address until Monday: . New products will be uploaded starting from Monday too. And since the week-end is there, it is not compulsary to downloard our L2A images until then (even if you can...)

Update : the server will also be down of Friday . Sorry for that

In order to solve the issue described in this post, MUSCATE distribution server is in maintenance. The distribution of new products should resume  tomorrow (Wednesday) or Thursday. Meanwhile, the production is going on. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Le serveur de distribution de MUSCATE est en maintenance pour résoudre le problème décrit dans cet article. La distribution de nouveaux produits devrait reprendre demain (mercredi) ou jeudi. Pendant les travaux, la production continue. Veuillez nous excuser pour ces perturbations.

Improvements of MAJA cloud masks in production

We are continuously working on improving the Sentinel-2 L2A products delivered by Theia. Since the 2nd of February, a new parametrization was put in production in order to improve two points of the cloud masks. There is a page which summarizes the variations of Theia product versions. Because of some error within Muscate production centre, we are not able to change the product version when we change a parameter. You have to look at the production date to know which version was used. This inconvenience will be corrected soon.

Clouds above water

Although MAJA is optimized for cloud detection and atmospheric correction over land, it is important to detect clouds well over water. For instance to detect the shadows of these clouds that are cast over land. But until now, the clouds mask was missing quite a lot of clouds over water. This was not a surprise as we had passed only a few hours determining the thresholds to apply. We recently found some more time to obtain a better tuning of the detection thresholds above water.

Thresholds in the SWIR have been halved (from 0.08 to 0.04), in the absence of sunglint. When sunglint is likely, due to the geometry of acquisition, the threshold is still higher (0.016, but it was 0.25 before).This means that when the sunglint flag is raised, the accuracy of cloud detection is reduced.

Impact of new cloud detection threshold over water : left, old threshold, right, new threshold.

Cloud dilation





The plane contrail illustrates the difference in observation angles of the spectral bands of Sentinel-2. The cumulus clouds above has the same effect, although lower because the cloud is at a lower altitude.

As it may be seen on the image above, the cloud limits are fuzzy, and except for the big and nice cumulus clouds, the pixel next to the cloud mask is also affected by clouds. Even if the cloud has sharp limits, it also changes the illumination of neighbouring pixels, and, in the case of Sentinel-2, as all the bands do not observe exactly in the same direction, there is a "parallax effect" which results in different cloud positions depending on the spectral band. For all these reasons, we need to dilate the cloud mask (by the way, this is an identified drawback of Sen2cor, which does not dilates its clouds).


Our dilation buffer was originally 480m. Following complaints from some users working in very cloudy countries, we had reduced the buffer to 240m in may 2017. But we recently figured out that the reduced dilation was degrading our estimates of  aerosols, as undetected clouds are considered as aerosols.  Due to this, the new version which runs since the2nd of February has once again a dilation of 480m.

Left, aerosol validation results with a dilation of 240m, right with a dilation of 480m. The new result brings a significant improvement (Merci à Bastien Rouquié pour ce résultat)


Users of THEIA Sentinel2 products are welcome in Toulouse, 13-14th June 2018

This is Toulouse in mid-June last year. Isn't that a nice place and time to gather the users of Sentinel-2 products delivered by Theia ?

CNES and THEIA are very happy to invite you to provide your feedback on the Sentinel-2 products we have been delivering for more than one year, thanks to the MUSCATE ground segment and the MAJA processor.


All users of MACCS/MAJA procesor and of THEIA products are welcome to tell us their findings, suggestions, and share experiences on methods, applications, and results.  We will also provide an update  about the processing perspectives, validation results, description of new versions, and you will have the opportunity to influence us on the related choices.


Please register and send your abstract to the workshop site. Here are the important dates to remember :

  • abstract submission deadline : March the 8th.
  • registration deadline : June the 3rd (we only have 100 seats, so please register quickly)
  • workshop dates 13-14th June 2018



The operational production of the Theia Snow collection has started

Great news, we can announce that the operational production of the Theia snow collection has started well. It means that maps of the snow cover area are now constantly added to the Theia portal. These maps are automatically generated from Sentinel-2 observations and have a spatial resolution of 20 m. The Snow collection will progressively cover most mountain regions in west Europe, but also the Atlas in Morocco, eastern Canada... The Snow collection can be freely downloaded from by any registered user.

Today's front page of the Theia website featured this nice example in Sierra de Ancares (western end of the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain). In the southeast, snow was also detected on the Montes Aquilanos, including the small ski resort El Morredero. The image was captured yesterday! It illustrates well the value of multispectral imagery to discriminate the snow cover from the clouds. There is a cloud which looks alike snow but it is actually a valley fog confined by local topography.

Theia Sentinel-2 level 2A and snow product in the region de los Ancares, Spain. Image captured by Sentinel-2A on 30 Jan 2018.

Theia Sentinel-2 level 2A and snow product in the region de los Ancares, Spain. Image captured by Sentinel-2A on 30 Jan 2018.

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