Section: Research Program

Satellite acquisitions and image assimilation

In geosciences, the issue of coupling data, in particular satellite acquisitions, and models is extensively studied for meteorology, oceanography, chemistry-transport and land surface models. However, satellite images are mostly assimilated on a point-wise basis. Three major approaches arise if taking into account the spatial structures, whose displacement is visualized on image sequences:

  • Image approach. Image assimilation allows the extraction of features from image sequences, for instance motion field or structures' trajectory. A model of the dynamics is considered (obtained by simplification of a geophysical model such as Navier-Stokes equations). An observation operator is defined to express the links between the model state and the pixel values. In the simplest case, the pixel value corresponds to one coordinate of the model state and the observation operator is reduced to a projection. However, in most cases, this operator is highly complex, implicit and non-linear. Data assimilation techniques are developed to control the initial state or the whole assimilation window. Image assimilation is also applied to learn reduced models from image data and estimate a reliable and small-size reconstruction of the dynamics, which is observed on the sequence.

  • Model approach. Image assimilation is used to control an environmental model and obtain improved forecasts. In order to take into account the spatial and temporal coherency of structures, specific image characteristics are considered and dedicated norms and observation error covariances are defined.

  • Correcting a model. Another topic, mainly described for meteorology in the literature, concerns the location of structures. How to force the existence and to correct the location of structures in the model state using image information? Most of the operational meteorological forecasting institutes, such as Météo-France, UK-met, KNMI (in Netherlands), ZAMG (in Austria) and Met-No (in Norway), study this issue because operational forecasters often modify their forecasts based on visual comparisons between the model outputs and the structures displayed on satellite images.