Remote sensing of the Earth's soil color in space and time

Rodnei Rizzo, Alexandre M.J.C. Wadoux, José A.M. Demattê, Budiman Minasny, Vidal Barrón, Eyal Ben-Dor, Nicolas Francos, Igor Savin, Raul Poppiel, Nelida E.Q. Silvero, Fabrício da Silva Terra, Nícolas Augusto Rosin, Jorge Tadeu Fim Rosas, Lucas Tadeu Greschuk, Maria V.R. Ballester, Andrés Mauricio Rico Gómez, Henrique Belllinaso, José Lucas Safanelli, Sabine Chabrillat, Peterson R. FiorioBhabani Sankar Das, Brendan P. Malone, George Zalidis, Nikolaos Tziolas, Nikolaos Tsakiridis, Konstantinos Karyotis, Nikiforos Samarinas, Eleni Kalopesa, Asa Gholizadeh, Keith D. Shepherd, Robert Milewski, Emmanuelle Vaudour, Changkun Wang, Elsayed Said Mohamed Salama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Soil color is a key indicator of soil properties and conditions, exerting influence on both agronomic and environmental variables. Conventional methods for soil color determination have come under scrutiny due to their limited accuracy and reliability. In response to these concerns, we developed an innovative system that leverages 35 years of satellite imagery in conjunction with in-situ soil spectral measurements. This approach enables the creation of a global soil color map with a fine spatial resolution of 30 m x 30 m. The system initially identifies bare earth areas worldwide using reflectance bands acquired from Landsat 4 through Landsat 8 between 1985 and 2020. Soil color was quantified using the CIE-XYZ coordinates, utilizing 8005 soil spectral measurements within the visible range (380–780 nm) as ground truth data. We established transfer functions to convert Landsat reflectance bands to standardized XYZ color coordinates. These transfer functions were subsequently applied to images of bare surfaces, covering approximately 38.5% of the Earth's surface. We validated the resulting global soil color map using statistical indices derived from an independent set of ground-truth spectral data, demonstrating a high degree of agreement. By creating the world's first global soil color map, we have set a baseline for future spatial and temporal monitoring of soil conditions, thus enhancing our understanding and management of our planet's vital soil resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113845
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2023


  • Color space models
  • Landsat
  • Remote sensing
  • Soil spatio-temporal monitoring
  • Soil spectroscopy
  • Spectral library

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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