VEGETATION COVER MAPPING FROM RGB WEBCAM TIME SERIES FOR LAND SURFACE EMISSIVITY RETRIEVAL IN HIGH MOUNTAIN AREAS
Keywords: Fractional Vegetation Cover, ExcessGreen, Land Surface Emissivity, RGB imagery, Terrestrial Thermography, Vegetation Location Properties
Abstract. Land Surface Temperature (LST) products from thermal infrared imaging rely on information about the spatial distribution of Land Surface Emissivity (LSE). For portable, broadband thermal cameras for drone- or ground-based measurements with camera to object distances up to a few kilometres and with meter-scale resolution, threshold-based retrieval of LSE from Fractional green Vegetation Cover (FVC) can be used. As seasonal changes in vegetation LSE over the year cannot be accounted for by single satellite images or aerial orthophotos, this study evaluates an approach for FVC retrieval via permanently installed RGB webcams and derived Excess Green vegetation index (ExG) time series at a high-mountain test site in the European Alps. Daily ExG values were derived from the imagery of 27 days between 12/07/2021 and 30/10/2021 and projected to a 0.5 m Digital Surface Model (DSM). FVC reference data from 765 in-situ vegetation plots were used to assess the relationship between ExG and the vegetation cover and to determine the thresholds of ExG for no vegetation cover and full vegetation cover. Despite the bad correlation between ExG and in-field FVC with an R² score of 0.15, an approach using a well-tested orthophoto-retrieved NDVI for FVC retrieval performs just slightly better. The comparison of the remotely sensed data and the field measurements therefore remains complex. Time series analysis of both ExG and FVC for highly vegetated areas showed a significant decrease from summer to autumn, which reflects the seasonal changes of LSE for senescent vegetation. Calculated emissivities for vegetated pixels ranged from the minimum of 0.95 to the maximum of 0.985 over the season, while emissivity values for less vegetated pixels stayed constant during the season. The results of this study will be used as input to a correction model for remote LST measurements in the context of micro-scale investigations of the thermal niche of Alpine flora.