Automatic detection of ship tracks in ATSR-2 satellite imagery
Abstract. Ships modify cloud microphysics by adding cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) to a developing or existing cloud. These create lines of larger reflectance in cloud fields that are observed in satellite imagery. An algorithm has been developed to automate the detection of ship tracks in Along Track Scanning Radiometer 2 (ATSR-2) imagery. The scheme has been integrated into the Global Retrieval of ATSR Cloud Parameters and Evaluation (GRAPE) processing chain. The algorithm firstly identifies intensity ridgelets in clouds which have the potential to be part of a ship track. This identification is done by comparing each pixel with its surrounding ones. If the intensity of three adjacent pixels is greater than the intensity of their neighbours, then it is classified as a ridgelet. These ridgelets are then connected together, according to a set of connectivity rules, to form tracks which are classed as ship tracks if they are long enough. The algorithm has been applied to two years of ATSR-2 data. Ship tracks are most frequently seen off the west coast of California, and the Atlantic coast of both West Africa and South-Western Europe. The global distribution of ship tracks shows strong seasonality, little inter-annual variability and a similar spatial pattern to the distribution of ship emissions.