Space borne thermal infrared sensors have been extensively used for environmental research as well as cross-calibration of other thermal sensing systems. Thermal infrared data from satellites such as Landsat and Terra/MODIS have limited temporal resolution

(with a repeat cycle of 1 to 2 days for Terra/MODIS, and 16 days for Landsat). Thermal instruments with finer temporal resolution on geostationary satellites have limited utility for cross-calibration due to their large view angles. Reanalysis atmospheric data is available on a global spatial grid at three hour intervals making it a potential alternative to existing satellite image data. This research explores using the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) reanalysis data product to predict top-of-atmosphere (TOA) thermal infrared radiance globally at time scales finer than available satellite data. The MERRA-2 data product provides global atmospheric data every three hours from 1980 to the present. Due to the high temporal resolution of

the MERRA-2 data product, opportunities for novel research and applications are presented. While MERRA-2 has been used in renewable energy and hydrological studies, this work seeks to leverage the model to predict TOA thermal radiance. Two approaches

have been followed, namely physics-based approach and a supervised learning approach, using Terra/MODIS band 31 thermal infrared data as reference. The first physics-based model uses forward modeling to predict TOA thermal radiance. The second model infers the presence of clouds from the MERRA-2 atmospheric data, before applying an atmospheric radiative transfer model. The last physics-based model parameterized the previous model to minimize computation time. The second approach applied four different supervised learning algorithms to the atmospheric data. The algorithms included a linear least squares regression model, a non-linear support vector regression (SVR) model, a multi-layer perceptron (MLP), and a convolutional neural network (CNN). This research found that the multi-layer perceptron model produced the lowest error rates overall, with an RMSE of 1.22W / m2 sr um when compared to actual Terra/MODIS band 31 image data. This research further aimed to characterize the errors associated with each method so that any potential user will have the best information available should they wish to apply these methods towards their own application.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Infrared spectroscopy; Thermal analysis

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Christopher Kanan

Advisor/Committee Member

Matthew Montanaro

Advisor/Committee Member

Aaron Gerace


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QC457 .K54 2017


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes