The paper of Jan Verbesselt, Achim Zeileis and Martin Herold: Near real-time disturbance detection using satellite image time series, has been accepted for publication in Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 123, August 2012, Pages 98–108.
Near real-time monitoring of ecosystem disturbances is critical for rapidly assessing and addressing impacts on carbon dynamics, biodiversity, and socio-ecological processes. Satellite remote sensing enables cost-effective and accurate monitoring at frequent time steps over large areas. Yet, generic methods to detect disturbances within newly captured satellite images are lacking. We propose a multi-purpose time-series-based disturbance detection approach that identifies and models stable historical variation to enable change detection within newly acquired data. Satellite image time series of vegetation greenness provide a global record of terrestrial vegetation productivity over the past decades. Here, we assess and demonstrate the method by applying it to (1) simulated time series of vegetation greenness data from satellite data, (2) real-world satellite greenness image time series between February 2000 and July 2011 covering Somalia to detect drought-related vegetation disturbances. First, simulation results illustrate that disturbances are successfully detected in near real-time while being robust to seasonality and noise. Second, major drought-related disturbance corresponding with most drought-stressed regions in Somalia are detected from mid-2010 onwards. The method can analyse in-situ or satellite data time series of biophysical indicators from local to global scale since it is fast, does not depend on thresholds and does not require time series gap filling. While the data and methods used are appropriate for proof-of-concept development of global scale disturbance monitoring, specific applications (e.g., drought or deforestation monitoring) mandate integration within an operational monitoring framework (e.g., http://www.fews.net/).