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In this tutorial, we load the NEON AOP Python module, which contains a series of functions to work with NEON hyperspectral data. We will also plot different combinations of bands, and learn how to create widgets to look at data more interactively.


After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Upload a Python module
  • Mre efficiently work with NEON hyperspectral data using functions, including:
    • Read in NEON AOP reflectance hdf5 data and associated metadata
    • Subset a flightline to a smaller region
    • Stack and plot 3-band combinations (eg. RGB, Color Infrared, False Color Images)
  • Use IPython widgets to explore RGB band combinations interactively
  • Understand how to write and use functions and loops to automate repeated processes

Install Python Packages

  • numpy
  • pandas
  • gdal
  • matplotlib
  • h5py

Download Data

To complete this tutorial, you will need data available from the NEON 2017 Data Institute teaching data set available for download.

Caution: This data set includes all the data for the 2017 Data Institute, including hyperspectral and lidar data sets and is therefore a large file (12 GB). Ensure that you have sufficient space on your hard drive before you begin the download. If not, download to an external hard drive and make sure to correct for the change in file path when working through the tutorial.ß

Download NEON Teaching Data Subset: Data Institute 2017 Data Set

The LiDAR and imagery data used to create this raster teaching data subset were collected over the National Ecological Observatory Networks field sites and processed at NEON headquarters. The entire dataset can be accessed by request from the NEON Airborne Data Request Page on the NEON website.

Download the neon_aop_refl_hdf5_functions Module

Download the RGBplot Module


We can combine any three bands from the NEON reflectance data to make an RGB image that will depict different information about the Earth’s surface. A natural color image, made with bands from the red, green, and blue wavelengths looks close to what we would see with the naked eye. We can also choose band combinations from other wavelenghts, and map them to the red, blue, and green colors to highlight different features. A false color image is made with one or more bands from a non-visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that are mapped to red, green, and blue colors. These images can display other information about the landscape that is not easily seen with a natural color image.

The NASA Goddard Media Studio video “Peeling Back Landsat’s Layers of Data” gives a good quick overview of natural and false color band combinations. Note that Landsat collects information from 11 wavelength bands, while NEON AOP hyperspectral data collects information from 426 bands!

Peeling Back Landsat’s Layers of Data Video

Further Reading

Load Function Module

Before we get started, let’s set up our plot and warning preferences:

%matplotlib inline
import warnings

We will start by importing a module with a suite of functions that we will use in the remainder of the course. You can add to these functions or customize them to better suit your data needs. First we can see some ways to import the module into Jupyter and explore what is inside them:

  • %load module_name - loads a module into a Jupyter Notebook cell. Allows flexibility for modifying functions.
  • %%writefile - writes out contents of Jupyter Notebook cell to (overwrites if that file already exists).
  • import module_name as shortname - imports a module, does not enable modifications.
  • help(module_name) - lists functions in a module along associated with docstrings
  • dir(module_name) - lists all functions and packages in a module
  • function_name? - displays docstring associated with function_name

We will load in a module called neon_aop_refl_hdf5_functions. Download and copy this module into your current working directory, or include the path when you load it.

You can load this module into the next cell by typing:

%load neon_aop_refl_hdf5_functions

Alternately, if you want to import the module behind the scenes, you can type:

import neon_aop_refl_hdf5_functions as neon

If you choose to import the module, When you call functions from this module, you will have to first type neon., eg. neon.plot_band_array.

%load neon_aop_refl_hdf5_functions

Functions & Loops

We can use the h5refl2array function to read in the SERC reflectance flightline from Lesson 1. For a quick look at how to run this function, type one of the following in the next code cell:



sercRefl, sercRefl_md, wavelengths = h5refl2array('../data/SERC/hyperspectral/NEON_D02_SERC_DP1_20160807_160559_reflectance.h5')

We can write a ‘for’ loop to list the metadata values that this function reads in

for item in sorted(sercRefl_md):
    print(item + ':',sercRefl_md[item])
bad_band_window1: [1340 1445]
bad_band_window2: [1790 1955]
epsg: 32618
ext_dict: {'xMin': 367167.0, 'yMin': 4300128.0, 'yMax': 4310980.0, 'xMax': 368273.0}
extent: (367167.0, 368273.0, 4300128.0, 4310980.0)
mapInfo: b'UTM, 1.000, 1.000, 367167.000, 4310980.000, 1.0000000000e+000, 1.0000000000e+000, 18, North, WGS-84, units=Meters'
noDataVal: -9999.0
projection: b'+proj=UTM +zone= 18 +ellps= WGS-84 +datum= WGS-84 +units= units=Meters +no_defs'
res: {'pixelWidth': 1.0, 'pixelHeight': 1.0}
scaleFactor: 10000.0
shape: (10852, 1106, 426)

Subset and Stack Bands

It is often useful to look at several bands together. We can extract and stack three bands in the red, green, and blue (RGB) spectrums to produce a color image that looks similar to what we see with our eyes. In the next part of this tutorial, we will learn to stack multiple bands and make a geotif raster from the compilation of these bands. We can see that different combinations of bands allow for different visualizations of the remotely-sensed objects and also conveys useful information about the chemical makeup of the Earth’s surface.

Let’s use some functions from the module to start:

# Define the RGB bands 
# use HDFViewer for which wavelengths = bands)
# These indexes correspond to R,G,B bands in the visible range of the EM spectrum 
RGBbands = (58,34,19) 

# Print the center wavelengths corresponding to these three bands:
# Red
print('Band 58 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[57]),'nm') 
# Green
print('Band 34 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[33]),'nm') 
# Blue
print('Band 19 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[18]),'nm') 
Band 58 Center Wavelength = 669.10 nm
Band 34 Center Wavelength = 548.91 nm
Band 19 Center Wavelength = 473.80 nm

We selected these bands so that they fall within the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum (400-700 nm).

Band 58 = 669 nm –> Red

Red, Band 58 = 669 nm Source: NASA Langley Research Center’s Science Directorate Education and Public Outreach

Band 34 = 549 nm –> Green

Green, Band 34 = 549 nm Source: NASA Langley Research Center’s Science Directorate Education and Public Outreach

Band 19 = 474 nm –> Blue

Blue, Band 19 = 474 nm Source: NASA Langley Research Center’s Science Directorate Education and Public Outreach

For more, see NASA’s article What Wavelength Goes With a Color? .

We can use the stack_subset_bands function to subset and stack these three bands. First we need to define the subset extent and determine the corresponding indices using the calc_clip_indexfunction:

# Define the clip extent dictionary:
clipExtent = {}
clipExtent['xMin'] = 367400. #the decimal point at the end sets the data to floating point
clipExtent['xMax'] = 368100.
clipExtent['yMin'] = 4305750.
clipExtent['yMax'] = 4306350.

# Calculate the pixel indices corresponding to the extent defined above using calc_clip_index:
serc_subInd = calc_clip_index(clipExtent,sercRefl_md['ext_dict']) 
print('SERC Subset Indices:',serc_subInd)

# Stack these subsetted bands using stack_subset_bands:
sercSubset_RGB = stack_subset_bands(sercRefl,sercRefl_md,RGBbands,serc_subInd)
SERC Subset Indices: {'xMin': 233, 'yMin': 4630, 'yMax': 5230, 'xMax': 933}

Next let’s plot these three bands separately:

cmap_title='Reflectance'; colorlimit = (0,256);
clipExt = (clipExtent['xMin'],clipExtent['xMax'],clipExtent['yMin'],clipExtent['yMax'])

fig = plt.figure(figsize=(18,3.5))

ax1 = fig.add_subplot(1,3,1)
plot_band_array(sercSubset_RGB[:,:,0],clipExt,colorlimit,ax1,title='SERC Band 58 (Red)', 

ax2 = fig.add_subplot(1,3,2)
plot_band_array(sercSubset_RGB[:,:,1],clipExt,colorlimit,ax2,title='SERC Band 34 (Green)',

ax3 = fig.add_subplot(1,3,3)
plot_band_array(sercSubset_RGB[:,:,2],clipExt,colorlimit,ax3,title='SERC Band 19 (Blue)',

Finally, we can plot the three bands together:

plot_band_array(sercSubset_RGB,clipExt,(0,0.5),title='SERC Subset RGB Image',cbar='off')

Basic Image Processing – Contrast Stretch & Histogram Equalization

We can also try out some basic image processing to better visualize the reflectance data using the ski-image package.

Histogram equalization is a method in image processing of contrast adjustment using the image’s histogram. Stretching the histogram can improve the contrast of a displayed image, as we will show how to do below.

Histogram equalization is a method in image processing of contrast adjustment using the image's histogram. Stretching the histogram can improve the contrast of a displayed image, as we will show how to do below. Source: Wikipedia - Public Domain

The following tutorial section is adapted from skikit-image’s tutorial Histogram Equalization.

Let’s start with trying a 2% and 5% linear contrast stretch:

from skimage import exposure
from IPython.html.widgets import *

rgbArray = copy.copy(sercSubset_RGB)

def linearStretch(percent):
    pLow, pHigh = np.percentile(rgbArray[~np.isnan(rgbArray)], (percent,100-percent))
    img_rescale = exposure.rescale_intensity(rgbArray, in_range=(pLow,pHigh))
    plt.title('SERC Band 56 Subset \n Linear ' + str(percent) + '% Contrast Stretch'); 
    ax = plt.gca()
    ax.ticklabel_format(useOffset=False, style='plain') #do not use scientific notation #
    rotatexlabels = plt.setp(ax.get_xticklabels(),rotation=90) #rotate x tick labels 90 degree
<function __main__.linearStretch>

# Adaptive Equalized Histogram

def adaptEqualizeHist(clip):
    img_nonan = #first mask the image to ignore the NaN values
    img_adapteq = exposure.equalize_adapthist(img_nonan, clip_limit=clip)
    fig = plt.figure(figsize=(15,6))
    ax1 = fig.add_subplot(1,2,1)
    # cbar = plt.colorbar(); cbar.set_label('Reflectance')
    plt.title('SERC RGB Subset \n Adaptively Equalized Histogram \n Clip Limit = ' + str(clip)); 
    ax1.ticklabel_format(useOffset=False, style='plain') #do not use scientific notation 
    rotatexlabels = plt.setp(ax1.get_xticklabels(),rotation=90) #rotate x tick labels 90 degree
    # Display histogram (100 bins)
    bins = 100
    ax_hist = fig.add_subplot(1,2,2)
    ax_hist.hist(img_adapteq.ravel(),bins); #np.ravel flattens an array into one dimension
    plt.title('SERC RGB Subset \n Adaptive Equalized Histogram \n Clip Limit = ' + str(clip)); 
    ax_hist.set_xlabel('Pixel Intensity'); ax_hist.set_ylabel('# of Pixels')

    # Display cumulative distribution
    ax_cdf = ax_hist.twinx()
    img_cdf, bins = exposure.cumulative_distribution(img_adapteq,bins)
    ax_cdf.plot(bins, img_cdf, 'r')
    ax_cdf.set_ylabel('Fraction of Total Intensity')

<function __main__.adaptEqualizeHist>

Color Infrared (CIR) Image

Finally, we’ll make a color-infrared (CIR) image, where we will use the same Green and Blue bands as in the RGB array, but we’ll replace the Red band with one in the Infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum:

CIRbands = (90,34,19)
print('Band 90 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[89]),'nm')
print('Band 34 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[33]),'nm')
print('Band 19 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[18]),'nm')

sercSubset_CIR = stack_subset_bands(sercRefl,sercRefl_md,CIRbands,serc_subInd)
plot_band_array(sercSubset_CIR,clipExt,(0,0.5),title='SERC Subset CIR Image',cbar='off')
Band 90 Center Wavelength = 829.34 nm
Band 34 Center Wavelength = 548.91 nm
Band 19 Center Wavelength = 473.80 nm

Challenge: False Color Image

We can also create an image from bands outside of the visible spectrum. An image containing one or more bands outside of the visible range is called a false color image. Here we’ll use bands with wavelengths in two Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) bands (1100-3000 nm) and one red band (669 nm).

One possible solution is given at the end of the lesson, if you get stuck.

For more information about non-visible wavelengths, false color images, and some frequently used false-color band combinations, refer to information provided by the NASA Earth Observatory.

Try out Different RGB Band Combinations Interactively

Now that we have made a couple different band combinations, we can create a Python widget to explore different combinations of bands in the visible and non-visible portions of the spectrum.

from IPython.html.widgets import *

# Subset the SERC reflectance array 
# using the indices determined from calc_clip_index
serc_subArray = sercRefl[serc_subInd['yMin']:serc_subInd['yMax'],serc_subInd['xMin']:serc_subInd['xMax'],:]
array = copy.copy(serc_subArray)
Refl_md = copy.copy(sercRefl_md)
def RGBplot_widget(R,G,B):
    # Pre-allocate array size
    rgbArray = np.zeros((array.shape[0],array.shape[1],3), 'uint8')
    Rband = array[:,:,R-1].astype(np.float)
    Rband_clean = clean_band(Rband,Refl_md)
    Gband = array[:,:,G-1].astype(np.float)
    Gband_clean = clean_band(Gband,Refl_md)
    Bband = array[:,:,B-1].astype(np.float)
    Bband_clean = clean_band(Bband,Refl_md)
    rgbArray[..., 0] = Rband_clean*256
    rgbArray[..., 1] = Gband_clean*256
    rgbArray[..., 2] = Bband_clean*256
    # Apply Adaptive Histogram Equalization to Improve Contrast:
    img_nonan = #first mask the image 
    img_adapteq = exposure.equalize_adapthist(img_nonan, clip_limit=0.10)
    plot = plt.imshow(img_adapteq,extent=clipExt); 
    plt.title('Bands: \nR:' + str(R) + ' (' + str(round(wavelengths.value[R-1])) +'nm)'
              + '\n G:' + str(G) + ' (' + str(round(wavelengths.value[G-1])) + 'nm)'
              + '\n B:' + str(B) + ' (' + str(round(wavelengths.value[B-1])) + 'nm)'); 
    ax = plt.gca(); ax.ticklabel_format(useOffset=False, style='plain') 
    rotatexlabels = plt.setp(ax.get_xticklabels(),rotation=90) 
interact(RGBplot_widget, R=(1,426,1), G=(1,426,1), B=(1,426,1))
<function __main__.RGBplot_widget>


Kekesi, Alex et al. “NASA | Peeling Back Landsat’s Layers of Data”. Published on Feb 24, 2014.

Riebeek, Holli. “Why is that Forest Red and that Cloud Blue? How to Interpret a False-Color Satellite Image”

Challenge Code Solutions

Challenge: False Color Image

FCIbands = (363,246,58)
print('Band 90 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[362]),'nm')
print('Band 34 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[246]),'nm')
print('Band 19 Center Wavelength = %.2f' %(wavelengths.value[58]),'nm')

sercSubset_FCI = stack_subset_bands(sercRefl,sercRefl_md,FCIbands,serc_subInd)
plot_band_array(sercSubset_FCI,clipExt,(0,0.5),title='SERC Subset CIR Image',cbar='off')
Band 90 Center Wavelength = 2196.45 nm
Band 34 Center Wavelength = 1615.56 nm
Band 19 Center Wavelength = 674.11 nm

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