Evaluation of the MODIS collections 5 and 6 for change analysis of vegetation and land surface temperature dynamics in North and South America

Ethan Heck, Kirsten M. de Beurs*, Braden C. Owsley, Geoffrey M. Henebry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The latest collection (C6) of MODIS data provides several algorithmic improvements and calibration adjustments that correct for sensor degradation, theoretically making the C6 MODIS products more accurate compared to previous collections. C6 adjustments also introduce several improvements in the vegetation index (VI) retrieval algorithms. With these improvements, we expect only minor differences between data from Terra and Aqua, but significantly different results between C5 and C6. In this paper, we investigate three different MODIS products to determine the extent that improvements made to C6 influence the overall trend results for time series between 2001 and 2017. We focus on these three products specifically, both to allow for a comparison of vegetation index products—NDVI and EVI from MOD13C1, and NDVI and EVI calculated based on surface reflectance from MCD43C4—and also to gain an understanding of the improvements on an entirely different product from the same sensor, namely Land Surface Temperature (LST) from MOD11C2. For the MCD43C4 dataset, we find that 17.9% and 16.4% of EVI and NDVI pixels, respectively, display trend discordance between C5 and C6. For the MOD13C1 vegetation indices, we found comparable rates of trend discordance between C5 and C6: 18.5% and 17.4% for the EVI and NDVI pixels, respectively. For both products the greatest changes between C5 and C6 are an overall increase in pixels exhibiting a significant greening trend and an overall decline in pixels exhibiting a significant browning trend. Moreover, the largest differences between C5 and C6 for the NDVI and EVI data appear in cropland areas and in regions with relatively little human influence. In the Land Surface Temperature product (MOD11C2), the discordance between C5 and C6 is much lower: only 3.2% of day and 5.0% of night LST trends exhibited discordance between C5 and C6. We analyze the complementary results of vegetation index and land surface temperature trends and demonstrate that combining the results from different products observed at different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum—but linked through the biogeophysical processes of surface energy balance—allows us to portray change with more confidence than when relying on vegetation index data alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Change analysis
  • EVI
  • LST
  • NDVI
  • Western hemisphere


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