Regional Changes in Earth's Color and Texture as Observed from Space over a 15-Year Period

Guangyu Zhao, Larry Di Girolamo, David J. Diner, Carol J. Bruegge, Kevin J. Mueller, Dong L. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Earth-observing satellites provide global observations of many geophysical variables. As these variables are derived from measured radiances, the underlying radiance data are the most reliable sources of information for change detection. Here, we identify statistically significant trends in the color and spatial texture of the Earth as viewed from multiple directions from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), which has been sampling the angular distribution of scattered sunlight since 2000. Globally, our results show that the Earth has been appearing relatively bluer (up to 1.6% per decade from both nadir and oblique views) and smoother (up to 1.5% per decade only from oblique views) over the past 15 years. The magnitude of the global blueing trends is comparable to that of uncertainties in radiometric calibration stability. Regional shifts in color and texture, which are significantly larger than global means, are observed, particularly over polar regions, along the boundaries of the subtropical highs, the tropical western Pacific, Southwestern Asia, and Australia. We demonstrate that the large regional trends cannot be explained either by uncertainties in radiometric calibration or variability in total or spectral solar irradiance; hence, they reflect changes internal to the Earth's climate system. The 15-year-mean true color composites and texture images of the Earth at both nadir and oblique views are also presented for the first time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7451236
Pages (from-to)4240-4249
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • Climate change
  • regional trends
  • satellite remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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