Raster analysis - advanced concepts

Raster functions are lightweight and process only the pixels visible on your screen, in memory, without creating intermediate files. They are powerful because you can chain them together and apply them on huge rasters and mosaics on the fly. This guide will introduce you to the different capabilities of Imagery Layers and how to apply raster functions. As a sample, it uses Landsat imagery data.

Note: This guide requires bokeh python plotting library. Install it in your conda environment using the command below. This command should be typed in the terminal, not in the notebook
conda install bokeh

Access Landsat imagery

ArcGIS Online provides multispectral landsat imagery layer, that we'll be using for this tutorial. Let's connect to ArcGIS Online and query for the "Landsat Multispectral" imagery layer:

from arcgis.gis import GIS
gis = GIS("your_enterprise_profile")
landsat_item = gis.content.search(query='Landsat GLS Multispectral AND owner:esri_livingatlas', 
                                  item_type='Imagery Layer', outside_org=True)[0]
Landsat GLS Multispectral
Landsat GLS 30 and 60m multispectral and multitemporal imagery with on-the-fly renderings and indices for visualization and analysis.Imagery Layer by esri_livingatlas
Last Modified: September 08, 2021
0 comments, 4 views

View Landsat imagery layer item description

from IPython.display import HTML

This layer includes Landsat GLS multispectral imagery for use in visualization and analysis. This layer is time enabled and includes a number band combinations and indices rendered on demand. The layer includes Landsat 7 ETM+, Landsat 5 TM, and Landsat 4 imagery at 30m, and includes Landsat MSS imagery at 60m.

Geographic Coverage

  • World-wide imagery coverage.

Temporal Coverage

  • This imagery layer includes data from epochs 2010, 2005, 2000, 1990 and 1975.

Analysis Ready

  • This imagery layer is analysis ready with Top of Atmosphere (TOA) correction applied.
  • The TOA reflectance values (ranging 0 – 1 by default) are scaled using a range of 0 – 10,000.
  • The scale is equivalent to other TOA reflectance products, including those provided by the USGS.

Image Selection/Filtering

  • Newer images are displayed by default on top.
  • The entire archive is accessible via custom filtering.
  • A number of fields are available for filtering, including Acquisition Date, Estimated Cloud Cover, and Product ID.
  • By setting the filter to Best is lesser than QQQQ one can control to see the best N scenes, where QQQQ=N*1million.

NOTE: Turning off all filters, and loading the entire archive, may affect performance.

Visual Rendering

  • Default layer is Agriculture (bands 5,4,1) with Dynamic Range Adjustment (DRA). Brighter green indicates more vigorous vegetation.
  • The DRA version of each layer enables visualization of the full dynamic range of the images.
  • Rendering (or display) of band combinations and calculated indices is done on-the-fly from the source images via Raster Functions.
  • Various pre-defined Raster Functions can be selected or custom functions can be created.
  • Similar Imagery Layers are also available: Panchromatic and Pansharpened.

Multispectral Bands


Wavelength (µm)

Landsat 7 ETM+

Landsat 4-5 TM

Landsat MSS


0.45 – 0.52

0.45 – 0.52



0.52 – 0.60

0.52 – 0.60

0.5 – 0.6


0.63 – 0.69

0.63 – 0.69

0.6 – 0.7


0.77 – 0.90

0.76 – 0.90

0.7 – 0.8


1.55 – 1.75

1.55 – 1.75

0.8 – 1.1


2.09 – 2.35

2.08 – 2.35


Other Layer Usage Notes...

  • Overviews exist with a spatial resolution of 300m and are updated weekly based on the best and latest imagery available at that time.
  • To work with individual source images at all scales, either use the ‘Lock Raster’ functionality or add a query filter to restrict the display to a specified image or group of images.
  • NOTE: ‘Lock Raster’ should only be used on the layer for short periods of time, as the imagery and associated record Object IDs may change daily.

  • Images can be exported up to a maximum of 2,000 columns x 2,000 rows per request.
  • This ArcGIS Server dynamic Imagery Layer can be used in Web Maps and ArcGIS Desktop as well as Web and Mobile applications using the REST based Image Services API.
  • WCS and WMS compatibility means this imagery can be consumed as WCS or WMS services.
  • Landsat Web App via Unlock Earth's Secrets.

Data Source

Landsat imagery is sourced from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Data is hosted by the Amazon Web Services as part of their Public Data Sets program. Users can access full scenes from Landsat on AWS, or alternatively access LandsatLook to review and download full scenes from the complete USGS archive.

The Global Land Survey includes images from Landsat 1 through Landsat 7. Band numbers and band combinations differ from those of Landsat 8, but have been mapped to the most appropriate band as in the above table. For more information about the Global Land Survey, visit GLS.

Access the layers available with the Landsat Imagery Layer item

This imagery layer item contains the imagery layer that we'll be using for this tutorial. Let's save a reference to the layer in the landsat variable. Querying the variable will in the Jupyter notebook will quickly render it as an image

landsat = landsat_item.layers[0]
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

Explore different wavelength bands

import pandas as pd

Visualize the layer in the map widget

Let's visualize the layer by creating a map widget around our area of interest and adding the Landsat Imagery layer to it:

m = gis.map('Redlands, CA')


Apply built-in raster functions

The multispectral imagery layer can be rendered using several different raster functions (also known as raster function templates). Each raster function template incorporates different satellite bands to highlight different land cover features. Obtain list of predefined raster function templates defined by the service backing the imagery layer:

for rasterfunc in landsat.properties.rasterFunctionInfos:
Agriculture with DRA
Bathymetric with DRA
Color Infrared with DRA
Geology with DRA
Natural Color with DRA
Short-wave Infrared with DRA
Color Infrared
Natural Color
Short-wave Infrared
NDVI Colorized
Normalized Difference Moisture Index Colorized

Let's apply the 'Color Infrared with DRA' raster function to visualize the color infrared view. This can be done using the apply function in the arcgis.raster.functions module. This function applies a server defined raster function template, given it's name, to the Imagery layer.

from arcgis.raster.functions import apply
color_infrared = apply(landsat, 'Color Infrared with DRA')
m = gis.map('Redlands, CA')

A true-color image uses red, green and blue satellite bands to create an image that looks like a photograph. The color infrared view, on the other hand, uses the near infrared, red and green satellite bands to create an image. As a result, vegetation appears bright red in the image above.

Interactive raster processing in Jupyter Notebook

Imagery layers can be queried in the Jupyter Notebok. This displays a raster representation of the layer as an image:

<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

Setting an area of interest

When working with Imagery layers, you are typically working in an area of interest. You can set the extent of the Imagery layer to that area of interest, and query it to visualize the imagery layer with that extent within the notebook:

from arcgis.geocoding import geocode
area = geocode('Redlands, CA', out_sr=landsat.properties.spatialReference)[0]
color_infrared.extent = area['extent']
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

Since we will be using the landsat layer further down in this notebook, let's set it's extent to our area of extent as well:

landsat.extent = area['extent']
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

Exporting Images from Imagery Layer

In addition to visualizing the imagery layers in the Jupyter Notebook, or using a map widge, they can be exported using the export_image method provided by ImageryLayers:

from IPython.display import Image
img = landsat.export_image(bbox=area['extent'], size=[1200,450], f='image')
<IPython.core.display.Image object>

The exported image can be saved to a file by specifying a folder and file name:

savedimg = landsat.export_image(bbox=area['extent'], size=[1200,450], f='image', save_folder='.', save_file='img.jpg')
from IPython.display import Image
Image(filename=savedimg, width=1200, height=450)
<IPython.core.display.Image object>

Exporting images from an imagery layer to which a raster function has been applied

The above techniques can be used to visualize imagery layers to which raster functions (or a chain of raster functions) have been applied:

color_infrared = apply(landsat, 'Color Infrared with DRA')
img = color_infrared.export_image(bbox=area['extent'], size=[1200, 450], f='image')
<IPython.core.display.Image object>

Vegetation Index

An index combines two or more wavelengths to indicate the relative abundance of different land cover features, like vegetation or moisture.

Let's use the 'NDVI Colorized' raster function to visualize healthy, green vegetation:

ndvi_colorized = apply(landsat, 'NDVI Colorized')
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

NDVI is an index that indicates the presence of healthy, green vegetation (seen in green above).

Custom Bands

You can also create your own indexes and band combinations, as well as specify stretch and gamma values to adjust the image contrast.

The code below first extracts the [3 (Red), 2 (Green), 1 (Blue)] bands using the extract_bands function and passes it's output to the stretch function to enhance the image:

from arcgis.raster.functions import stretch, extract_band
naturalcolor = stretch(extract_band(landsat, [3,2,1]), 
                    stretch_type='percentclip', min_percent=0.1, max_percent=0.1, gamma=[1, 1, 1], dra=True)
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

This is a true-color image (similar to a photograph), created using the red, green, and blue satellite bands. Notice how much easier it was to find healthy vegetation using the NDVI vegetation index, compared to the true-color image here.

Image Attributes

The get_samples() method returns pixel values of the source data (i.e before any rendering rules or raster functions are applied) for a given geometry as well as image attributes, like Scene ID, Acquisition Date, and Cloud Cover.

import arcgis
g = arcgis.geometry.Geometry(area['extent'])
samples = landsat.get_samples(g, sample_count=50,
{'attributes': {'AcquisitionDate': 1497810112739,
  'Category': 1,
  'CloudCover': 0,
  'GroupName': 'LC80400362017169LGN00_MTL',
  'OBJECTID': 512686,
  'SunAzimuth': 115.0186,
  'SunElevation': 68.11962},
 'location': {'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wkid': 102100},
  'x': -13051664.00092773,
  'y': 4044907.967502277},
 'locationId': 0,
 'rasterId': 512686,
 'resolution': 30,
 'value': '12709 12560 13074 14706 21385 21015 16225 5072'}
import datetime
value = samples[0]['attributes']['AcquisitionDate']
datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(value /1000).strftime("Acquisition Date: %d %b, %Y")
'Acquisition Date: 18 Jun, 2017'

Here's the same information visualized as a table using Pandas:

pd.DataFrame(samples[0]['attributes'], index=[0])

Spectral profile from the sampled values at a location

The get_samples method can also estimate which type of land cover most closely matches any point on the map by comparing their spectral profiles. The example below adds a 'click handler' to the map widget. When the map is clicked, a spectral profile for the clicked location is displayed using the bokeh charting library.

m = gis.map('Redlands, CA')
import bokeh
from bokeh.models import Range1d
from bokeh.plotting import figure, show, output_notebook
from IPython.display import clear_output

def get_samples(mw, g):
    samples = landsat.get_samples(g, pixel_size=30)
    values = samples[0]['value']
    vals = [float(int(s)/100000) for s in values.split(' ')]
    x = ['1','2', '3', '4', '5', '6', '7', '8']
    y = vals
    p = figure(title="Spectral Profile", x_axis_label='Spectral Bands', y_axis_label='Data Values', width=600, height=300)
    p.line(x, y, legend="Selected Point", line_color="red", line_width=2)
    p.circle(x, y, line_color="red", fill_color="white", size=8)
    p.y_range=Range1d(0, 1.0)

print('Click anywhere on the map to plot the spectral profile for that location.')
Loading BokehJS ...
Click anywhere on the map to plot the spectral profile for that location.

Clipping to an area of interest

Imagery layers can be clipped to an area of interest using the clip raster function. The clipping geometry can be obtained from a feature layer or spatial dataframe as well. Here's a simple example of clipping the landsat layer:

from arcgis.geometry import Geometry, buffer

The unit parameter indicates the units for calculating each buffer distance. If not specified, the units are derived from bufferSR. If bufferSR is not specified, the units are derived from in_sr. In the example below, we are calling the buffer method with unit set to be a constant string "9001":

poly = buffer(geometries=[Geometry(area['location'])],
              in_sr=102100, distances=6000, 

Equivalently we can use a constant Enum, e.g. LengthUnits.METER, or the integer 9001 to specify the same requirement.

from arcgis.geometry import LengthUnits
geom_buffered_b = buffer(geometries = [polyline1], 
from arcgis.raster.functions import clip
redclip = clip(landsat, poly)

The clipped layer can also be added to a map widget:

m = gis.map('Redlands, CA')


Select images by where clause, geometry and time range

You can select images by attributes using a where clause as well as using spatial and temporal filters, using the filter_by method.

The code snippet below limits the images available to those that have less than 10% cloud cover and which intersect with our area of interest:

from arcgis.geometry.filters import intersects
selected = landsat.filter_by(where="(Category = 1) AND (CloudCover <=0.10) AND (WRS_Row = 36)", 

You can query the filtered rasters as a FeatureSet:

fs = selected.query(out_fields="AcquisitionDate, GroupName, Best, CloudCover, WRS_Row, Month, Name", 

Attributes of the selected rasters can be queried using a Pandas dataframe using the 'df' property of the FeatureSet.

df = fs.sdf
023379840000095957036-0.01p043r036_2x197705305p043r036_2dm19770530_z11_MS5566775.026523e+10897574.64190036{'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wki...
164203840000091960036-0.01p040r036_5x199005075p040r036_5dt19900507_z11_MS5487224.694317e+10867257.25274336{'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wki...
2956534400000889600360.00p040r036_7x200004244p040r036_7dt20000424_z11_MS5394624.600983e+10858608.45621736{'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wki...
31116892800000799600360.00L7040036_036200505245L72040036_03620050524_MS5305014.766887e+10874086.57868436{'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wki...
41242000000000729600360.00L5040036_036200905115L5040036_03620090511_MS5186014.781355e+10875674.82335936{'spatialReference': {'latestWkid': 3857, 'wki...

Looking at the shape of the dataframe we see that 46 scenes match the specified criteria:

(46, 11)

The footprints of the rasters matching the criteria can be drawn using the map widget:

df['Time'] = pd.to_datetime(df['AcquisitionDate'], unit='ms')
0   1977-05-30 00:00:00.000
1   1990-05-07 00:00:00.000
2   2000-04-24 00:00:00.000
3   2005-05-24 00:00:00.000
4   2009-05-11 00:00:00.000
5   2014-04-07 18:22:17.314
6   2014-09-30 18:22:18.498
7   2014-10-16 18:22:23.338
8   2014-11-17 18:22:20.787
9   2014-12-19 18:22:16.837
Name: Time, dtype: datetime64[ns]

Resolving overlapping pixels in selected rasters

When a setof rasters are selected by filtering an Imagery layer, they may have overlapping pixels.

The Imagery layer has methods like first(), last(), min(), max(), mean(), blend() and sum() to resolve overlap pixel values from first or last raster, use the min, max or mean of the pixel values, or blend them:

Here's the same information visualized using the map widget. This shows the selected rasters covering only our area of interest:

m = gis.map('Redlands, CA', 7)
m = gis.map('Redlands, CA', 7)

Change Detection

It's quite common to compare images of the same area from two different times. The example below selects the old and new images using the filter_by() method ans specifying an object id. The object id can be obtained from the query() method described above.

old = landsat.filter_by('OBJECTID=1139')
new = landsat.filter_by('OBJECTID=463490')

Difference Image

Difference Image mode illustrates all the changes in NDVI (vegeration index) between the two dates:

increases are shown in green, and decreases are shown in magenta.

from arcgis.raster.functions import *
diff = stretch(composite_band([ndvi(old, '5 4'),
                               ndvi(new, '5 4'),
                               ndvi(old, '5 4')]), 
                               stretch_type='stddev',  num_stddev=3, min=0, max=255, dra=True, astype='u8')
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

Applying a threshold mask

The difference can also be computed using map algebra, as shown below:

ndvi_diff = ndvi(new, '5 4') - ndvi(old, '5 4')
<ImageryLayer url:"http://landsat2.arcgis.com/arcgis/rest/services/Landsat/MS/ImageServer">

However, in the image above is hard to visualize in which areas the vegetation index changed by a specified threshold. The example below renders the areas where the change is above the specified threshold and renders it using a green color:

threshold_val = 0.1
masked = colormap(remap(ndvi_diff, 
                        input_ranges=[threshold_val, 1], 
                        no_data_ranges=[-1, threshold_val], astype='u8'), 
                  colormap=[[1, 124, 252, 0]], astype='u8')

Image(masked.export_image(bbox=area['extent'], size=[1200,450], f='image'))
<IPython.core.display.Image object>

The difference image and threshold mask can be visualized using the map widget:

m = gis.map('Redlands, CA')


Persisting your analysis for visualizaion or analysis

The save() method on ImageryLayer class persists this imagery layer to the GIS as an Imagery Layer item. If for_viz parameter is True, a new Item is created that uses the applied raster functions for visualization at display resolution using on-the-fly image processing. If for_viz is False, distributed raster analysis is used for generating a new raster information product by applying raster functions at source resolution across the extent of the output imagery layer.

In the example below, the threshold mask is being saved as item for visualization:

lyr = masked.save('Test_viz_layer3', for_viz=True)
Imagery Layer by arcgis_python
Last Modified: July 05, 2017
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