Calibration of Sentinel Land Surface Phenology with Ground Phenological Observations for agricultural applications

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Initial situation, problem to solve and motivation to carry out the R&D project. Climate extremes have led to serious damages in Austria’s agriculture during the last years. The worst case so far was the frost damage to fruit trees and vineyards in 2016, where in Styria alone, damages equivalent to 200 Mio Euros were reported.

In 2015, Austrian corn harvests were about 22 % less than average due to severe summer droughts. In such situations, public bodies and also insurance companies often lack an objective view on the dimensions of the damaged areas both before and after the event.

In order to provide this overview, remote sensing data from Europe’s earth observation satellites S-2 (S-2) and S-3 (S-3) will be used to generate detailed phenological information and join it with meteorological models for improved damage forecasts.

Contents and goals

Goals and level of innovation compared to the state of the art (level of technology/knowledge). Phenological information is at the moment mainly based on MODIS data with a resolution between 250 and 1000 m. Using Europe’s S-2 and S-3 satellites, it will be possible to improve the resolution to 10 m. Innovative fusion techniques (e.g. STARFM, SSTF) will be employed to combine the daily S-3 data with S-2 data characterized by a geometric resolution of 10m and a temporal resolution of 5 days.

The result will be daily phenological data at a high resolution allowing to draw conclusions also for Austria’s small-structured agricultural landscapes. By fusing S-2 data to the daily available S-3 data (300m resolution), the temporal resolution can be further improved. This level of detail is needed, as different plants show different damage susceptibility in the various phenological phases. Information on the phenological status in combination with meteorological data and models will be used to better predict areas of damage.


In the project PhenObserve two prototypes based on phenological parameters are developed:

Frost damage on fruit tree crops

In various phenological stages (bud swelling, bud break-out, start of flowering, etc.) crops show a different vulnerability to frost damage. A particular challenge in this application is the fact that the window of time between bud swelling phase the bud break phase is very small and the demands on the temporal resolution of the satellite image data within this time period are very high.

The real-time determination of the phenological stage is thus an important information that is currently not available with sufficient accuracy. In combination with the meteorological data and forecasting models, the regions in which damage will be delineated in more detail than ever before.

Drought Impact Maize

The detection of drought stress of maize fields can also benefit from the improved geometric and temporal resolution of S-2 data. The method to be developed relates to the comparison of multi-temporal phenological signature curves of an observation year with the signature curves of a "standard year" without any drought stress. By this comparison, maize fields suffering from drought stress can be identified at an early stage.

Expected results

Expected results and findings. The goal of PhenObserve is a spatio-temporal enhancement of phenology information from S-2 and S-3 data. These data are automatically generated and then made available on a powerful platform. Based on this data pool, the two example applications are demonstrated.

Project Partners


ZAMG - Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics

Project partner

  • Catalysts GmbH
  • JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH - DIGITAL Institute for Information and Communication Technologies

Contact Address

ZAMG - Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics
Dr. Helfried Scheifinger
Hohe Warte 38
A-1190 Vienna