Remote Sensing, Vol. 11, Pages 1962: Retrieval of Cloud Optical Thickness from Sky-View Camera Images using a Deep Convolutional Neural Network based on Three-Dimensional Radiative Transfer (Remote Sensing)
Observation of the spatial distribution of cloud optical thickness (COT) is useful for the prediction and diagnosis of photovoltaic power generation. However, there is not a one-to-one relationship between transmitted radiance and COT (so-called COT ambiguity), and it is difficult to estimate COT because of three-dimensional (3D) radiative transfer effects. We propose a method to train a convolutional neural network (CNN) based on a 3D radiative transfer model, which enables the quick estimation of the slant-column COT (SCOT) distribution from the image of a ground-mounted radiometrically calibrated digital camera. The CNN retrieves the SCOT spatial distribution using spectral features and spatial contexts. An evaluation of the method using synthetic data shows a high accuracy with a mean absolute percentage error of 18% in the SCOT range of 1–100, greatly reducing the influence of the 3D radiative effect. As an initial analysis result, COT is estimated from a sky image taken by a digital camera, and a high correlation is shown with the effective COT estimated using a pyranometer. The discrepancy between the two is reasonable, considering the difference in the size of the field of view, the space–time averaging method, and the 3D radiative effect.