[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.

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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.

[MUSCATE news] Distribution server in maintenance

New update: Muscate distribution server is back but you should use the following address until Monday: https://theia.cnes.fr/atdistrib/rocket/#/home . 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)

Using NDVI with atmospherically corrected data

NDVI

NDVI is by far the most commonly used vegetation index. NDVI was developed in the early seventies (Rouse 1973, Tucker 1979), and widely used with remote sensing in the nineties until now. It is computed from the surface reflectance in the red and near infra-red channels on each side of the red-edge.

$NDVI=\frac{\rho(NIR)-\rho(RED)}{\rho(NIR)+\rho(RED)}$

where $\rho(NIR)$ and $\rho(RED)$ are reflectances in the NIR and RED. Although several users still use top-of atmosphere reflectances (TOA), surface reflectances should be used to reduce sensitivity to variations of aerosol atmospheric content.

A time profile of surface reflectance from Sentinel2 satellite for the blue, green, red and NIR spectral bands for a summer crop in South East France. The observation under constant viewing angles minimizes directional effects.One can also notice that reflectance variations related to vegetation status are greater in the near infra-red, while the noise is usually lower. As a result, a vegetation index should rely more on the NIR than on the red.

I think NDVI is mainly used for the following reasons (but feel free to comment and add your reasons) :

• it has the large advantage of qualifying the vegetation status with only one dimension, instead of N dimensions if we consider the reflectances of each channel. Of course, by replacing N dimensions by only one, a lot of information is lost.
• it  enables to reduce the temporal noise due to directional effects. But with the Landsat, Sentinel-2 or Venµs satellites, which observe under constant viewing angles, the directional effects have been considerably reduced.

I therefore tend to tell students that if NDVI is convenient, it is not the only way to monitor vegetation.

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 http://theia.cnes.fr 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.

[MUSCATE News] Production still on, but distribution stalled again

Update January 31st, 10h00 : Distribution was just restarted, a few hundreds of images will be added today, and meanwhile, data are processed in Near Real Time.

This January was a nightmare for MUSCATE. Following database issues to send data to the distribution server, our production system was stopped during the Christmas break and unstable the weeks after.

After understanding the issues, the MUSCATE team stopped the automatic sending of products, resumed the production, and started to update the production server manually. We were nearly back on track last Thursday, when the distribution server refuse to accept any new product. The explanation was found, a directory in the High Performance Storage System (a robot that handles tapes and disks) had 65535 files and could not accept a new one.  We need a little reorganisation of the folder structure to overcome that, and meanwhile, the distribution is stalled again.

Still, more than 60 000 L2A products are now available, and we have started distributing the snow cover products, in NRTWD  ("Near real time with delay"). We hope to be soon really in NRT.

From Multitemp blog to Nature Geoscience

You probably remember Simon Gascoin's story about the Aru glacier avalanches, which started from Simon's observations of the twin avalanches using the Sentinels. It was one of the big buzz pages of the blog in 2016. The first images were published here, then spread out in many scientific websites and the social networks.

The same mountain valley in Tibet is shown before and after part of a glacier sheared off on 17 July 2016. Credit: NASA/Joshua Stevens/USGS/ESA

It seems that the story finally made its way to Nature Geoscience, after a large work from many scientists lead by Andreas Kaab.  Congratulations to all the team !

So, dear CESBIO colleagues, or remote sensing time series users, it is time to submit your work to this blog as a first step to future publications in Nature !

[MUSCATE News] Production resumed, distribution stalled

Sorry for those of you waiting for our real time products, MUSCATE production is stalled these days. The teams are working hard to put it back in production.

Update: it seems that the issues happened when sending products to the distribution server. A data base request became infinitely long, and the system waited for it. While a solution is being tested, the production just resumed at full speed, but the distribution is still stalled and should be started again on Monday.

Désolé pour ceux d'entre vous qui attendent nos produits. La production de MUSCATE est arrêtée. Les équipes travaillent d'arrache pied pour la remettre en route.

Mise à jour: les problèmes rencontrés se produisent lors de l'envoi des données au serveur de distribution. Une requête en base prend un temps infini, et le système finit par s'arrêter. La production vient de redémarrer à pleine vitesse, mais l'envoi des données pour la distribution a été désactivé, en attendant que la solution en cours de test soit validée.

Machine learning benchmarking for land cover map production

Land cover map validation is a complex task. If you read French, you can check this post by Vincent Thierion which shows how the 2016 LC map of France produced by CESBIO stands with respect to data sources independent from those used for its production. But this is only one aspect of the validation. A land cover map is a map, and therefore, there are other issues than checking if individual points belong to the correct class. By the way, being sure that the correct class is known, is not so easy neither.

In this epoch of machine learning hype 1, it is easy to fall in the trap of thinking that optimising a single metric accounts for all issues in map validation. Typical approaches used in machine learning contests are far from enough for this complex task. Let's have a look at how we proceed at CESBIO when we assess the quality of a LC map produced by classification.