Cloud cover is inevitable in optical remote sensing (RS) imagery on account of the influence of observation conditions, which limits the availability of RS data. Therefore, it is of great significance to be able to reconstruct the cloud-contaminated ground information. This paper presents a sparse dictionary learning-based image inpainting method for adaptively recovering the missing information corrupted by thick clouds patch-by-patch. A feature dictionary was learned from exemplars in the cloud-free regions, which was later utilized to infer the missing patches via sparse representation. To maintain the coherence of structures, structure sparsity was brought in to encourage first filling-in of missing patches on image structures. The optimization model of patch inpainting was formulated under the adaptive neighborhood-consistency constraint, which was solved by a modified orthogonal matching pursuit (OMP) algorithm. In light of these ideas, the thick-cloud removal scheme was designed and applied to images with simulated and true clouds. Comparisons and experiments show that our method can not only keep structures and textures consistent with the surrounding ground information, but also yield rare smoothing effect and block effect, which is more suitable for the removal of clouds from high-spatial resolution RS imagery with salient structures and abundant textured features.
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