The apparent effect of orbital drift on time series of MODIS MOD10A1 albedo on the Greenland ice sheet

Shunan Feng, Adrien Wehrlé, Joseph Mitchell Cook, Alexandre Magno Anesio, Jason Eric Box, Liane G. Benning, Martyn Tranter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The NASA MODIS MOD10A1 snow albedo product has enabled numerous glaciological applications. The temporal consistency of MODIS albedo is critical to obtaining reliable results from this 22-year time series. The orbit of Terra began to drift toward earlier acquisition times after the final inclination adjustment maneuver to maintain its nominal orbit by NASA on 27 February 2020, which may introduce biases that compromise the accuracy of quantitative time series analysis as the drift continues. Here, we evaluate the impact of Terra's orbital drift by comparing the differences between the Terra MODIS albedo and albedo products derived from Aqua MODIS, harmonized Landsat and Sentinel 2, Sentinel 3, and PROMICE (Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet) ground measurements over the Greenland ice sheet. Our results suggest that the influence of orbital drift on albedo is small (+0.01 in 2020), but potentially biased for time series analysis. Our analysis also finds that the drift effect that causes earlier image acquisition time may lead to more apparently cloudy pixels and thus effectively reduce the Terra MODIS temporal resolution over Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100116
Number of pages9
JournalScience of Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Albedo
  • Google Earth Engine
  • Greenland ice sheet
  • Orbit drift
  • Time series

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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