Whenever vegetated areas are monitored over time, phenological changes in land cover should be decoupled from changes in acquisition conditions, like atmospheric components, Sun and satellite heights and imaging instrument. This especially holds when the multispectral (MS) bands are sharpened for spatial resolution enhancement by means of a panchromatic (Pan) image of higher resolution, a process referred to as pansharpening. In this paper, we provide evidence that pansharpening of visible/near-infrared (VNIR) bands takes advantage of a correction of the path radiance term introduced by the atmosphere, during the fusion process. This holds whenever the fusion mechanism emulates the radiative transfer model ruling the acquisition of the Earth’s surface from space, that is for methods exploiting a multiplicative, or contrast-based, injection model of spatial details extracted from the panchromatic (Pan) image into the interpolated multispectral (MS) bands. The path radiance should be estimated and subtracted from each band before the product by Pan is accomplished. Both empirical and model-based estimation techniques of MS path radiances are compared within the framework of optimized algorithms. Simulations carried out on two GeoEye-1 observations of the same agricultural landscape on different dates highlight that the de-hazing of MS before fusion is beneficial to an accurate detection of seasonal changes in the scene, as measured by the normalized differential vegetation index (NDVI).
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