Standard Article

52 Estimation of Surface Temperature and Surface Emissivity

Part 5. Remote Sensing

  1. Thomas J Schmugge1,2

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa059

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Schmugge, T. J. 2006. Estimation of Surface Temperature and Surface Emissivity. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 5:52.

Author Information

  1. 1

    USDA/ARS Hydrology & Remote Sensing Lab, Beltsville, MD, US

  2. 2

    College of Agriculture, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Measurements of thermal radiation at infrared wavelengths (7 to 14 µm) yield much information about the land surface. The primary use of these observations is for surface temperature determination as the emissivity is usually close to one. For this purpose, it is fortuitous that the peak in the thermal emission occurs in an atmospheric transmission window. In addition, there are variations in the emissivity of minerals and soils in the 7–14 µm region, which can be interpreted for identification purposes. These also produce significant emissivity variations for arid or desert areas, where there are considerable exposed soils and rocks. The emissivity for vegetative canopies has been found to be close to one, with little spectral variation. Applications of the derived surface temperature to study the surface energy balance and to estimate the energy fluxes from the land surface are discussed.


  • remote sensing;
  • thermal infrared;
  • surface emissivity