Utility of thermal sharpening over Texas high plains irrigated agricultural fields



[1] Irrigated crop production in the Texas high plains (THP) is dependent on water extracted from the Ogallala Aquifer, an area suffering from sever water shortage. Water management in this area is therefore highly important. Thermal satellite imagery at high temporal (∼daily) and high spatial (∼100 m) resolutions could provide important surface boundary conditions for vegetation stress and water use monitoring, mainly through energy balance models such as DisALEXI. At present, however, no satellite platform collects such high spatiotemporal resolution data. The objective of this study is to examine the utility of an image sharpening technique (TsHARP) for retrieving land surface temperature at high spatial resolution (down to 60 m) from moderate spatial resolution (1 km) imagery, which is typically available at higher (∼daily) temporal frequency. A simulated sharpening experiment was applied to Landsat 7 imagery collected over the THP in September 2002 to examine its utility over both agricultural and natural vegetation cover. The Landsat thermal image was aggregated to 960 m resolution and then sharpened to its native resolution of 60 m and to various intermediate resolutions. The algorithm did not provide any measurable improvement in estimating high-resolution temperature distributions over natural land cover. In contrast, TsHARP was shown to retrieve high-resolution temperature information with good accuracy over much of the agricultural area within the scene. However, in recently irrigated fields, TsHARP could not reproduce the temperature patterns. Therefore we conclude that TsHARP is not an adequate substitute for 100-m-scale observations afforded by the current Landsat platforms. Should the thermal imager be removed from follow-on Landsat platforms, we will lose valuable capacity to monitor water use at the field scale, particularly in many agricultural regions where the typical field size is ∼100 × 100 m. In this scenario, sharpened thermal imagery from instruments like MODIS or VIIRS would be the suboptimal alternative.