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We show how methods proposed in the statistical community dealing with missing data may be applied for land cover classification, where optical observations are missing due to clouds and snow. The proposed method is divided into two stages: 1) cloud/snow classification and 2) training and land cover classification. The purpose of the cloud/snow classification stage is to determine which pixels are missing due to clouds and snow. All pixels in each optical image are classified into the classes cloud, snow, water, and vegetation using a suitable classifier. The pixels classified as cloud or snow are labeled as missing, and this information is used in the subsequent training and classification stage, which deals with classification of the pixels into various land cover classes. For land cover classification, we apply the maximum-likelihood (assuming normal distributions), -nearest neighbor, and Parzen classifiers, all modified to handle missing features. The classifiers are evaluated on Landsat (both Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus) images covering a scene at about 900 m a.s.l. in the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in Southern Norway, where 4869 in situ samples of the land cover classes water, ridge, leeside, snowbed, mire, forest, and rock are obtained. The results show that proper modeling of the missing pixels improves the classification rate by 5%-10%, and by using multiple images, we increase the chance of observing the land cover type substantially. The nonparametric classifiers handle nonignorable missing-data mechanisms and are therefore particularly suitable for remote sensing applications where the pixels covered by snow and cloud may depend on the land cover type.
Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:49 , Issue: 1 )
Date of Publication: Jan. 2011