Pseudo-Invariant Calibration Sites (PICS) are one of the most popular methods for in-flight vicarious radiometric calibration of Earth remote sensing satellites. The fundamental question of PICS temporal stability has not been adequately addressed. However, the main purpose of this work is to evaluate the temporal stability of a few PICS using a new approach. The analysis was performed over six PICS (Libya 1, Libya 4, Niger 1, Niger 2, Egypt 1 and Sudan 1). The concept of a “Virtual Constellation” was developed to provide greater temporal coverage and also to overcome the dependence limitation of any specific characteristic derived from one particular sensor. TOA reflectance data from four sensors consistently demonstrating “stable” calibration to within 5%—the Landsat 7 ETM+ (Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus), Landsat 8 OLI (Operational Land Imager), Terra MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) and Sentinel-2A MSI (Multispectral Instrument)–were merged into a seamless dataset. Instead of using the traditional method of trend analysis (Student’s T test), a nonparametric Seasonal Mann-Kendall test was used for determining the PICS stability. The analysis results indicate that Libya 4 and Egypt 1 do not exhibit any monotonic trend in six reflective solar bands common to all of the studied sensors, indicating temporal stability. A decreasing monotonic trend was statistically detected in all bands, except SWIR 2, for Sudan 1 and the Green and Red bands for Niger 1. An increasing trend was detected in the Blue band for Niger 2 and the NIR band for Libya 1. These results do not suggest abandoning PICS as a viable calibration source. Rather, they indicate that PICS temporal stability cannot be assumed and should be regularly monitored as part of the sensor calibration process.
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