Endmember variability in Spectral Mixture Analysis: A review

Ben Somers, Gregory P. Asner, Laurent Tits, Pol Coppin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

523 Scopus citations


The composite nature of remotely sensed spectral information often masks diagnostic spectral features and hampers the detailed identification and mapping of targeted constituents of the earth's surface. Spectral Mixture Analysis (SMA) is a well established and effective technique to address this mixture problem. SMA models a mixed spectrum as a linear or nonlinear combination of its constituent spectral components or spectral endmembers weighted by their subpixel fractional cover. By model inversion SMA provides subpixel endmember fractions. The lack of ability to account for temporal and spatial variability between and among endmembers has been acknowledged as a major shortcoming of conventional SMA approaches using a linear mixture model with fixed endmembers. Over the past decades numerous efforts have been made to circumvent this issue. This review paper summarizes the available methods and results of endmember variability reduction in SMA. Five basic principles to mitigate endmember variability are identified: (i) the use of multiple endmembers for each component in an iterative mixture analysis cycle, (ii) the selection of a subset of stable spectral features, (iii) the spectral weighting of bands, (iv) spectral signal transformations and (v) the use of radiative transfer models in a mixture analysis. We draw attention to the high complementarities between the different techniques and suggest that an integrated approach is necessary to effectively address endmember variability issues in SMA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1603-1616
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 15 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Endmember selection
  • Endmember variability
  • Mixed pixels
  • Mixture modeling
  • Spectral Mixture Analysis
  • Unmixing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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