Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Geography and the Environment

First Advisor

Sharolyn Anderson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Paul Sutton

Third Advisor

Christopher Elvidge

Fourth Advisor

Rebecca L. Powell


Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Nighttime lights


Nighttime satellite imagery from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS) has a unique capability to observe nocturnal light emissions from sources including cities, wild fires, and gas flares. Data from the DMSP OLS is used in a wide range of studies including mapping urban areas, estimating informal economies, and estimating urban populations. Given the extensive and increasing list of applications a repeatable method for assessing geolocation accuracy, performing inter-calibration, and defining the minimum detectable brightness would be beneficial. An array of portable lights was designed and taken to multiple field sites known to have no other light sources. The lights were operated during nighttime overpasses by the DMSP OLS and observed in the imagery. A first estimate of the minimum detectable brightness is presented based on the field experiments conducted. An assessment of the geolocation accuracy was performed by measuring the distance between the GPS measured location of the lights and the observed location in the imagery. A systematic shift was observed and the mean distance was measured at 2.9km. A method for in situ radiance calibration of the DMSP OLS using a ground based light source as an active target is presented. The wattage of light used by the active target strongly correlates with the signal measured by the DMSP OLS. This approach can be used to enhance our ability to make inter-temporal and inter-satellite comparisons of DMSP OLS imagery. Exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent active target for the calibration of nocturnal imaging systems is recommended. The methods used to assess the minimum detectable brightness, assess the geolocation accuracy, and build inter-calibration models lay the ground work for assessing the energy expended on light emitted into the sky at night. An estimate of the total energy consumed to light the night sky globally is presented.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Benjamin Taylor Tuttle


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

107 p.


Geography, Geographic Information Science and Geodesy, Remote Sensing