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Utilization of the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (NPP) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day/Night Band for Arctic Ship Tracking and Fisheries Management

Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA
Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
National Weather Service, Alaska Sea Ice Program, Anchorage, AK 99502, USA
Geographic Information Network of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Dr. Kathleen Cole has retired now.
Academic Editors: Richard Müller and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2015, 7(1), 971-989;
Received: 10 June 2014 / Accepted: 25 December 2014 / Published: 16 January 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing with Nighttime Lights)
PDF [8253 KB, uploaded 19 January 2015]


Maritime ships operating on-board illumination at night appear as point sources of light to highly sensitive low-light imagers on-board environmental satellites. Unlike city lights or lights from offshore gas platforms, whose locations remain stationary from one night to the next, lights from ships typically are ephemeral. Fishing boat lights are most prevalent near coastal cities and along the thermal gradients in the open ocean. Maritime commercial ships also operate lights that can be detected from space. Such observations have been made in a limited way via U.S. Department of Defense satellites since the late 1960s. However, the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite, which carries a new Day/Night Band (DNB) radiometer, offers a vastly improved ability for users to observe commercial shipping in remote areas such as the Arctic. Owing to S-NPP’s polar orbit and the DNB’s wide swath (~3040 km), the same location in Polar Regions can be observed for several successive passes via overlapping swaths—offering a limited ability to track ship motion. Here, we demonstrate the DNB’s improved ability to monitor ships from space. Imagery from the DNB is compared with the heritage low-light sensor, the Operational Linescan System (OLS) on board the Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP) satellites, and is evaluated in the context of tracking individual ships in the Polar Regions under both moonlit and moonless conditions. In a statistical sense, we show how DNB observations of ship lights in the East China Sea can be correlated with seasonal fishing activity, while also revealing compelling structures related to regional fishery agreements established between various nations. View Full-Text
Keywords: satellite imagery; nighttime visible; NIR; ship lights satellite imagery; nighttime visible; NIR; ship lights

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Straka, W.C., III; Seaman, C.J.; Baugh, K.; Cole, K.; Stevens, E.; Miller, S.D. Utilization of the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (NPP) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day/Night Band for Arctic Ship Tracking and Fisheries Management. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 971-989.

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