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Sensors 2007, 7(11), 2519-2538; doi:10.3390/s7112519

Sub-pixel Area Calculation Methods for Estimating Irrigated Areas

1,* , 2, 3, 1, 1, 3, 4, 1 and 1
1 International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka 2 Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space (EOS), University of New Hampshire, USA 3 Department of Geography, University of Maryland, USA 4 Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence, South Dakota State University, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 October 2007 / Accepted: 21 October 2007 / Published: 31 October 2007
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Natural Resources and the Environment)
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The goal of this paper was to develop and demonstrate practical methods forcomputing sub-pixel areas (SPAs) from coarse-resolution satellite sensor data. Themethods were tested and verified using: (a) global irrigated area map (GIAM) at 10-kmresolution based, primarily, on AVHRR data, and (b) irrigated area map for India at 500-mbased, primarily, on MODIS data. The sub-pixel irrigated areas (SPIAs) from coarse-resolution satellite sensor data were estimated by multiplying the full pixel irrigated areas(FPIAs) with irrigated area fractions (IAFs). Three methods were presented for IAFcomputation: (a) Google Earth Estimate (IAF-GEE); (b) High resolution imagery (IAF-HRI); and (c) Sub-pixel de-composition technique (IAF-SPDT). The IAF-GEE involvedthe use of “zoom-in-views” of sub-meter to 4-meter very high resolution imagery (VHRI)from Google Earth and helped determine total area available for irrigation (TAAI) or netirrigated areas that does not consider intensity or seasonality of irrigation. The IAF-HRI isa well known method that uses finer-resolution data to determine SPAs of the coarser-resolution imagery. The IAF-SPDT is a unique and innovative method wherein SPAs aredetermined based on the precise location of every pixel of a class in 2-dimensionalbrightness-greenness-wetness (BGW) feature-space plot of red band versus near-infraredband spectral reflectivity. The SPIAs computed using IAF-SPDT for the GIAM was within2 % of the SPIA computed using well known IAF-HRI. Further the fractions from the 2 methods were significantly correlated. The IAF-HRI and IAF-SPDT help to determine annualized or gross irrigated areas (AIA) that does consider intensity or seasonality (e.g., sum of areas from season 1, season 2, and continuous year-round crops). The national census based irrigated areas for the top 40 irrigated nations (which covers about 90% of global irrigation) was significantly better related (and had lesser uncertainties and errors) when compared to SPIAs than FPIAs derived using 10-km and 500-m data. The SPIAs were closer to actual areas whereas FPIAs grossly over-estimate areas. The research clearly demonstrated the value and the importance of sub-pixel areas as opposed to full pixel areas and presented 3 innovative methods for computing the same.
Keywords: sub-pixel areas; sub-pixel de-composition technique; high-resolution imagery; irrigated area fractions; IAF-SPDT; IAF-HRI; IAF-GEE sub-pixel areas; sub-pixel de-composition technique; high-resolution imagery; irrigated area fractions; IAF-SPDT; IAF-HRI; IAF-GEE
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Thenkabailc, P.S.; Biradar, C.M.; Noojipady, P.; Cai, X.; Dheeravath, V.; Li, Y.; Velpuri, M.; Gumma, M.; Pandey, S. Sub-pixel Area Calculation Methods for Estimating Irrigated Areas. Sensors 2007, 7, 2519-2538.

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