Thermal Imaging

Deepali Gadkari

Thermal Energy

bodies having temperature more than 0°k or -273°C (absolute zero), emit heat. Thermal Infra Red is this emitted energy.


multispectral (MSS) systems sense radiation in the thermal infrared as well as the visible and reflected infrared portions of the spectrum. However, remote sensing of energy emitted from the Earth's surface in the thermal infrared (3 μm to 15 μm) is different than the sensing of reflected energy.

Spectral Range

are two windows: 3µm to5 µm 8 µm to 14 µ m

3µm to 5 µm image is more useful for interpretation. More the emittance, the brighter the image is.

Thermal Energy and Sensors

sensors use photo detectors sensitive to the direct contact of photons on their surface, to detect emitted thermal radiation.

Thermal Sensors

detectors are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero in order to limit their own thermal emissions. Thermal sensors essentially measure the surface temperature and thermal properties of targets.

Thermal Imagers

imagers are typically across-track scanners that detect emitted radiation in only the thermal portion of the spectrum.

Thermal Sensors

sensors employ one or more internal temperature references for comparison with the detected radiation, so they can be related to absolute radiant temperature.

Recording Medium

data are generally recorded on film and/or magnetic tape and the temperature resolution of current sensors can reach 0.1 °C.


analysis, an image of relative radiant temperatures (a thermogram) is depicted in grey levels, with warmer temperatures shown in light tones, and cooler temperatures in dark

Meteorological Purposes

meteorological purposes, this convention is typically reversed so that clouds (cooler than the earth’s surface) appear light toned.

Thermal Imagery

which portrays relative temperature differences in their relative spatial locations are sufficient for most applications.


temperature measurements may be calculated but require accurate calibration and measurement of the temperature references and detailed knowledge of the thermal properties of the target, geometric distortions, and radiometric effects.

Interactions with Atmosphere


of the relatively long wavelength of thermal radiation (compared to visible radiation), atmospheric scattering is minimal. However, absorption by atmospheric gases normally restricts thermal sensing to two specific regions - 3 to 5

IFOV of Thermal Sensors

energy decreases as the wavelength increases, thermal sensors generally have large IFOVs to ensure that enough energy reaches the detector in order to make

Spatial Resolution of Thermal Sensors


the spatial resolution of thermal sensors is usually fairly coarse, relative to the spatial resolution possible in the visible and reflected infrared.

All-Time Sensing

imagery can be acquired during the day or night (because the radiation is emitted not reflected) and is used for a variety of applications such as military reconnaissance, disaster management (forest fire mapping), and heat loss


thermal scanning operations, such as geologic and soil mapping are qualitative in nature. In these cases, it is not usually necessary to know absolute ground temperatue and emissivities, but simply to study relative differences in the radiant temperatures within a scene.


thermal scanning operations require quantitative data analysis for determining absolute temperatures – e.g. thermal scanning for monitoring surface water temperature of the effluent from a nuclear power

Fields of application

structure Locating geological fault Mapping soil type and soil moisture Locating irrigation canal leaks Determining the thermal characteristics of volcanoes

rock type and

Fields of application

evapotranspiration from vegetation Locating cold-water spring Locating hot-water springs and geysers Determining the extent and characteristics of thermal plumes


How would thermal imagery be useful in an urban environment?

Detecting and monitoring heat loss from buildings in urban areas is an excellent application of thermal remote sensing. Heating costs, particularly in northern countries such as Canada, can be very expensive.

Extra Shots
Thermal imaging in both residential and commercial areas allows us to identify specific buildings, or parts of buildings, where heat is escaping. If the amount of heat is significant, these areas can be targeted for repair and re-insulation to reduce costs and conserve energy.

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