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1/29/2015

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Eric Tincombe
1/29/2015
Janet Finlay
Niagara College
135 Taylor Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake
ON L0S 1J0
Dear Ms. Finlay
RE: Submission
Classification

of

GISC9216-D1:

Introduction

to

Supervised

Please accept this as my formal submission of GISC9216-D1: Introduction to


Supervised Classification. This assignment is comprised of a written report which
includes a definition of digital image classification, an explanation of the distinction
between supervised and unsupervised classification, a methodology for both
methods, and a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages for each method.
Also included in my submission are the classified images produced using both
methods, as well as the original image subset which was classified in the form of
ERDAS .img files. The image classifications were conducted using ERDAS Imagine
2014 digital image processing software. In completing this assignment, I have
gained an understanding of the processes of supervised and unsupervised
classification, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Should you have an issues or concerns, please feel free to contact me by email at
erictincombe@gmail.com.
Sincerely,

Eric Tincombe, BAH


GIS-GM Candidate
E.T./e.t.
Enclosures:
Classification

1) GISC9216-D1: Introduction to Supervised


Word document- 18 pages
2)

Contents
1.

Introduction.......................................................................................................... 1

2.

Unsupervised Classification.................................................................................. 1
2.1 Definition........................................................................................................... 1
2.2 Methodology...................................................................................................... 2

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3.

Supervised Classification..................................................................................... 5
3.1 Definition........................................................................................................... 5
3.2 Methodology...................................................................................................... 6
3.3 Parametric Rules............................................................................................... 8

4.

Conclusions........................................................................................................ 12

5.

Appendix............................................................................................................ 14

Figures
Figure 1: Image subset before classification...............................................................2
Figure 2: Specifying parameters for unsupervised classification................................3
Figure 3 Unsupervised classification before class merging and recoloring.................3
Figure 4 Unsupervised classification attribute table after changing colors and giving
names to the classes.................................................................................................. 4
Figure 5 Attribute table for recoded image.................................................................4
Figure 6 Result of unsupervised classification............................................................5
Figure 7 Subset image before supervised classification.............................................6
Figure 8: Training area selected using draw polygon tool...........................................7
Figure 9 Signatures selected from area of interest.....................................................7
Figure 10 Histogram showing distribution of pixel values for Class 1 (Urban)............9
Figure 11 Histogram showing distribution of pixel values for Class 6 (Bare Soil)......10
Figure 12 Supervised classification created using the Minimum Distance
parametric rule ........................................................................................................ 10
Figure 13 Supervised classification created using the Maximum Distance
parametric rule......................................................................................................... 11
Figure 14 Supervised classification created using the "Mahalanobis Distance"
classification............................................................................................................. 11
Figure 15 Unsupervised Classification......................................................................12
Figure 16 Image subset (false colour).......................................................................13
Figure 17 Unsupervised Classification......................................................................14
Figure 18 Supervised Classification (Minimum Distance).........................................15

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1. Introduction
Digital image classification involves the identification of homogeneous
areas of land cover types through the analysis of spectral information. The
numerical spectral data of each pixel is analyzed and pixels are grouped
based on this information by a computer algorithm. The objective of
classification is to assign pixels to groups or classes which represent specific
land cover types (water, forest, agricultural, etc.). There are two methods of
classification: unsupervised and supervised. Unsupervised classification
involves the use of clustering algorithms to determine logical groupings for
the spectral data. In supervised classification, a human analyst defines
training areassample pixel groups of the land cover types present in the
image. The computer program then groups the pixels into classes based on
the spectral information defined in the training areas. Both methods have
their advantages and disadvantages. This paper outlines the methodology
for performing a supervised and unsupervised classification using ERDAS
IMAGINE 2014 digital image processing software, and includes a discussion
of the benefits and potential applications for both classification methods.

2. Unsupervised Classification
2.1 Definition
Unsupervised classification is a method of image classification by
which pixels are grouped into classes at the discretion of a computer
program. ERDAS uses the ISODATA algorithm to classify pixels based on their
brightness values. Users can set certain parameters for the algorithm. The
following parameters were considered in this classification:
Number of classes: User can set the number of classes into which the pixel
data will be grouped.
Max iterations: User can specify the maximum number of times the
algorithm will attempt to recluster the data. The more iterations, the more
clustered the results of the classification. Setting a maximum number of
iterations prevents the algorithm from getting stuck in an infinite loop if it
cannot reach the convergence threshold.
Convergence threshold: User can set the maximum percentage of pixels
whose cluster assignments can go unchanged between iterations. For
example, if the threshold is set to 0.95, the algorithm will repeat until 95% of
the pixels remain unchanged between iterations.

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X & Y skip factors: User may choose to skip pixels when classifying.
Entering 2 will classify every other pixel, entering 3 will classify every third,
etc.

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2.2 Methodology
Subset image was opened with ERDAS.

Figure 1: Image subset before classification

Unsupervised classification tool was selected and run using the following
parameters:
a.

Number of classes = 10

b.

Max Iterations = 10

c.

Convergence threshold = 0.95

d.

Skip factor (X & Y) = 1

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Figure 2: Specifying parameters for unsupervised classification

Figure 3 Unsupervised classification before class merging and recoloring

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The unsupervised classification produced the image shown in Figure 3. The


attribute table for the unsupervised classification result was opened and
colors and names were chosen to represent each class.

Figure 4 Unsupervised classification attribute table after changing colors and


giving names to the classes
Several of the classes created in the unsupervised classification represent
the same land type (see Figure 4). These were recoded to form one class for
each land type. The recoded image contains six classes Figure 5).

Figure 5 Attribute table for recoded image. Row1 = water, Row 2= Forest,
Row 4= Forest/agricultural, Row 5= Urban, Row 6= Agricultural. Row 9=
Bare soil/urban.1

1 N.B. although rows 0, 3, 7, and 8 appear in the attribute table, the histogram
values for these classes in 0, indicating they have been recoded.

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Figure 6 Result of unsupervised classification (see Appendix: Figure 17 for


larger view)

3. Supervised Classification
3.1 Definition
In a supervised classification, the user identifies sample areas of the
image which represent distinct ground cover types. These areas of interest
are referred to as training areas. The numerical value for all spectral bands
within these training areas are identified and used by the computer program
to determine the numerical signature of each class. The pixels of the image
are then compared to the numerical signatures and assigned to the class
which they most closely resemble. Supervised classification relies on the
users knowledge of the area and image interpretation expertise in order to
produce an accurate result.

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3.2 Methodology
Subset image was opened using ERDAS.

Figure 7 Subset image before supervised classification


In order to perform a supervised classification, training areas must be
identified. The polygon drawing tool was used to define a minimum of three
training areas for each class. The arrange function was used to group these
polygons by class. The resulting groups of polygons were saved as an area of
interest (.aoi).

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Figure 8: Training area selected using draw polygon tool


Signature editor was then opened. A signature was created for each training
area from the area of interest. Each signature was given a descriptive name
and coloration. These signatures were then saved as a .sig file.

Figure 9 Signatures selected from area of interest


The supervised classification option under the raster tab was selected. The
image subset and signature file were selected. Three different image

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classifications were run, using three parametric rules: maximum likelihood,


mahalanobis distance, and minimum distance.

3.3 Parametric Rules


When running a supervised classification, the user is given the option of
choosing which parametric rule will be used in assigning pixels which fall into
the overlap region between classes. For this assignment, three different
supervised classifications were run using each of the following parametric
rules:
Maximum Likelihood: the decision of class assignment for this rule is
based on the probability that a pixel belongs in a particular class.
Mahalnobis Distance: this parametric rule uses a covariance matrix to
determine which class to assign each pixel.
Minimum Distance: the candidate pixel is assigned to a class by comparing
the spectral distance between the measurement vector for the pixel and the
mean vector for each signature.
The chief difficulty involved in this particular image classification was
differentiation between the spectrally similar classes of urban areas and bare
soil. Both land types are highly reflective, and thus occupy a similar spectral
range (compare histograms shown in Figure 10 and Figure 11). The minimum
distance parametric rule was the most effective at assigning pixels to the
correct class (note the relative clarity of the grey urban areas in Figure 12 in
comparison to the other methods).

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Figure 10 Histogram showing distribution of pixel values for Class 1 (Urban).


The x- axis plots the pixel value, and the y axis displays the incidence of that
value (i.e. the number of pixels that brightness value)

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Figure 11 Histogram showing distribution of pixel values for Class 6 (Bare


Soil)

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Figure 12 Supervised classification created using the Minimum Distance


parametric rule (see Appendix: Figure 18 for larger view)

Figure 13 Supervised classification created using the Maximum Distance


parametric rule

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Figure 14 Supervised classification created using the "Mahalanobis Distance"


classification

4. Conclusions
Both unsupervised and supervised classification methods are useful in
certain applications. Unsupervised classification, although less accurate than
supervised classification, is convenient because it is fast and requires very
little user input. Applications which call for the classification of a large
number of aerial images might benefit from unsupervised classification.
Photos with only a few land types and a high contrast in pixel values
between the land types would also benefit from unsupervised classification
because it is relatively simple for the program to create meaningful classes
with this type of data. Unsupervised classification may also be the best
option when the user is inexperienced with remote sensing, since supervised
classification relies on human analysis. Unsupervised classification is illsuited to applications where there are two or more distinct classes with
similar spectral ranges. A comparison of the unsupervised classification and
the false color image subset reveals that this was exactly the problem with
running an unsupervised classification on the image chosen for this
assignment. Note the prevalence of the bare soil class (tan) in the urban area
(grey) in Figure 15. Analysis of the image subset (Figure 16) shows that this
area is urban, not bare soil. The similar spectral characteristics of the urban

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and bare soil classes are illustrated in the histograms shown in Figure 10 and
Figure 11. Due to this similarity, the unsupervised classification has grouped
some of the urban areas in with the bare soil, resulting in a classification that
does not reflect reality. This is an example of the weaknesses inherent in
unsupervised classification.

Figure 15 Unsupervised Classification

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Figure 16 Image subset (false colour)


Supervised classification can be far more accurate than unsupervised. Using
this method, a skilled analyst can differentiate between two classes which
have very similar signatures by carefully selecting training areas. A
comparison between Figure 15 and Figure 16 demonstrates superior
potential for accuracy available with supervised classification. Note the
accuracy in the supervised classifications rendering of urban areas.
The need for analyst oversight in supervised classification can also be
a disadvantage if the analyst is untrained or does not know what to look for.
Supervised classification introduces an aspect of human error not present in
unsupervised classification. It is also time-consuming to define training
areas. If many images are required in a short period of time, supervised
classification may not be the method of choice.

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5. Appendix

Figure 17 Unsupervised Classification

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Figure 18 Supervised Classification (Minimum Distance)