Supervised Classification

The Classifier package handles supervised classification in Earth Engine. The general workflow for classification is:

  1. Collect training data. Assemble features which have a property that stores the known class label and properties storing numeric values for the predictors.
  2. Instantiate a classifier. Set its parameters if necessary.
  3. Train the classifier using the training data.
  4. Classify an image or feature collection.
  5. Estimate classification error with independent validation data.

The training data is a FeatureCollection with a property storing the class label and properties storing predictor variables. Class labels should be small, consecutive, non-negative integers representing classes. If necessary, use remap() to convert class values to consecutive integers starting from 0. The predictors should be numeric.

Training and/or validation data can come from a variety of sources. To collect training data interactively in Earth Engine, you can use the geometry drawing tools (see the Code Editor section). Alternatively, you can import predefined training data from an Earth Engine table asset or a Fusion Table (see the Importing section for details). Get a classifier from one of the constructors in ee.Classifier. Train the classifier using classifier.train(). Classify an Image or FeatureCollection using classify(). The following example uses a Classification and Regression Trees (CART) classifier (Breiman et al. 1984) to predict forest and non-forest areas in the Amazon:

// Use these bands for prediction.
var bands = ['B2', 'B3', 'B4', 'B5', 'B6', 'B7', 'B10', 'B11'];

// Load a Landsat 8 image to be used for prediction.
var image = ee.Image('LANDSAT/LC8_L1T_TOA/LC82320672013207LGN00').select(bands);

// Load training points. The numeric property 'class' stores known labels.
var points = ee.FeatureCollection('ft:10X7SUjDTiFJDyIA58zLcptK8pwBwjj1BV12SQOgJ')
    .remap([1, 2], [0, 1], 'class');

// Overlay the points on the imagery to get training.
var training = image.sampleRegions(points, ['class'], 30);

// Train a CART classifier with default parameters.
var trained = ee.Classifier.cart().train(training, 'class', bands);

// Classify the image with the same bands used for training.
var classified =;

// Display the inputs and the results.
Map.centerObject(image, 10);
Map.addLayer(image, {bands: ['B4', 'B3', 'B2'], max: 0.4}, 'image');
Map.addLayer(classified, {min: 0, max: 1, palette: ['00FF00', 'FF0000']},

In this example, the training points in the Fusion Table store only the class label. Note that remap() is used to convert the training property to consecutive integers starting at 0. Also note the use of image.sampleRegions() to get the predictors into the table and create a training dataset. To train the classifier, specify the name of the class label property and a list of properties in the training table which the classifier should use for predictors. The number and order of the bands in the image to be classified must exactly match the order of the properties list provided to classifier.train(). Use to ensure that the classifier schema matches the image.

If the training data are polygons representing homogenous regions, every pixel in each polygon is a training point. Use polygons to train as illustrated in the following example:

// Use these bands for prediction.
var bands = ['B2', 'B3', 'B4', 'B5', 'B6', 'B7', 'B10', 'B11'];

// Load an image over a portion of southern California, USA.
var image = ee.Image('LC8_L1T_TOA/LC80400372013318LGN00').select(bands);

// Load training polygons from a Fusion Table.
// The 'class' property stores known class labels.
var polygons = ee.FeatureCollection('ft:1vYn7-uO80vAVpZxi81yXzx55jgtztsZaLxG5TWYH');

// Get the values for all pixels in each polygon in the training.
var training = image.sampleRegions({
  // Get the sample from the polygons FeatureCollection.
  collection: polygons,
  // Keep this list of properties from the polygons.
  properties: ['class'],
  // Set the scale to get Landsat pixels in the polygons.
  scale: 30

// Create an SVM classifier with custom parameters.
var classifier = ee.Classifier.svm({
  kernelType: 'RBF',
  gamma: 0.5,
  cost: 10

// Train the classifier.
var trained = classifier.train(training, 'class', bands);

// Classify the image.
var classified = image.classify(trained);

// Create a palette to display the classes.
var palette =['006400', '32CD32', 'EEE8AA',
              '8B4513', '98FB98', '00FA9A',
              '90EE90', '00008B', 'FF8C00',
              'ADFF2F', '808080'];

// Display the classification result and the input image.
Map.setCenter(-117.3, 33.30, 9);
Map.addLayer(image, {bands: ['B4', 'B3', 'B2'], max: 0.5, gamma: 2});
Map.addLayer(classified, {min: 0, max: 10, palette: palette}, 'Vegetation Type');

This example uses a Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifier (Burges 1998). Note that the SVM is specified with a set of custom parameters. Without a priori information about the physical nature of the prediction problem, optimal parameters are unknown. See Hsu et al. (2003) for a rough guide to choosing parameters for an SVM.

To assess the accuracy of a classifier, use a ConfusionMatrix (Stehman 1997). The following example uses sample() to generate training and validation data from a MODIS reference image and compares confusion matrices representing training and validation accuracy:

// Define a region of interest as a point.  Change the coordinates
// to get a classification of any place where there is imagery.
var roi = ee.Geometry.Point(-122.3942, 37.7295);

// Load Landsat 5 input imagery.
var landsat = ee.Image(ee.ImageCollection('LANDSAT/LT5_L1T_TOA')
  // Filter to get only one year of images.
  .filterDate('2011-01-01', '2011-12-31')
  // Filter to get only images under the region of interest.
  // Sort by scene cloudiness, ascending.
  // Get the first (least cloudy) scene.

// Compute cloud score.
var cloudScore = ee.Algorithms.Landsat.simpleCloudScore(landsat).select('cloud');

// Mask the input for clouds.  Compute the min of the input mask to mask
// pixels where any band is masked.  Combine that with the cloud mask.
var input = landsat.updateMask(landsat.mask().reduce('min').and(cloudScore.lte(50)));

// Use MODIS land cover, IGBP classification, for training.
var modis = ee.Image('MODIS/051/MCD12Q1/2011_01_01')

// Sample the input imagery to get a FeatureCollection of training data.
var training = input.addBands(modis).sample({
  numPixels: 5000,
  seed: 0

// Make a Random Forest classifier and train it.
var classifier = ee.Classifier.randomForest(10)
    .train(training, 'Land_Cover_Type_1');

// Classify the input imagery.
var classified = input.classify(classifier);

// Get a confusion matrix representing resubstitution accuracy.
var trainAccuracy = classifier.confusionMatrix();
print('Resubstitution error matrix: ', trainAccuracy);
print('Training overall accuracy: ', trainAccuracy.accuracy());

// Sample the input with a different random seed to get validation data.
var validation = input.addBands(modis).sample({
  numPixels: 5000,
  seed: 1
  // Filter the result to get rid of any null pixels.
}).filter(ee.Filter.neq('B1', null));

// Classify the validation data.
var validated = validation.classify(classifier);

// Get a confusion matrix representing expected accuracy.
var testAccuracy = validated.errorMatrix('Land_Cover_Type_1', 'classification');
print('Validation error matrix: ', testAccuracy);
print('Validation overall accuracy: ', testAccuracy.accuracy());

// Define a palette for the IGBP classification.
var igbpPalette = [
  'aec3d4', // water
  '152106', '225129', '369b47', '30eb5b', '387242', // forest
  '6a2325', 'c3aa69', 'b76031', 'd9903d', '91af40',  // shrub, grass
  '111149', // wetlands
  'cdb33b', // croplands
  'cc0013', // urban
  '33280d', // crop mosaic
  'd7cdcc', // snow and ice
  'f7e084', // barren
  '6f6f6f'  // tundra

// Display the input and the classification.
Map.centerObject(roi, 10);
Map.addLayer(input, {bands: ['B3', 'B2', 'B1'], max: 0.4}, 'landsat');
Map.addLayer(classified, {palette: igbpPalette, min: 0, max: 17}, 'classification');

This example uses a random forest (Breiman 2001) classifier with 10 trees to downscale MODIS data to Landsat resolution. The sample() method generates two random samples from the MODIS data: one for training and one for validation. The training sample is used to train the classifier. You can get resubstitution accuracy on the training data from classifier.confusionMatrix(). To get validation accuracy, classify the validation data. This adds a classification property to the validation FeatureCollection. Call errorMatrix() on the classified FeatureCollection to get a confusion matrix representing validation (expected) accuracy.

Inspect the output to see that the overall accuracy estimated from the training data is much higher than the validation data. The accuracy estimated from training data is an overestimate because the random forest is “fit” to the training data. The expected accuracy on unknown data is lower, as indicated by the estimate from the validation data.

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