Automated SAR Image Thresholds for Water Mask Production in Alberta’s Boreal Region

Mapping and monitoring surface water features is important for sustainably managing this critical natural resource that is in decline due to numerous natural and anthropogenic pressures. Satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar is a popular and inexpensive solution for such exercises over large scales through the application of thresholds to distinguish water from non-water. Despite improvements to threshold methods, threshold selection is traditionally manual, which introduces subjectivity and inconsistency over large scales. This study presents a novel method for objectively determining and applying a threshold to determine water masks from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery on a scene-by-scene basis. The method was applied to Radarsat-2 and simulated Radarsat Constellation Mission scenes, and validated against two independent validation sources with high accuracy (Kappa ranging from 0.85 to 0.93). Expectedly, greatest misclassification occurs near shorelines, which are often ecologically important zones. Comparisons between Radarsat-2 and Radarsat Constellation Mission thresholds and outputs suggest that the latter is a capable successor for surface water applications. This work represents a foundational step toward objectivity and consistency in large-scale water mapping and monitoring.

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Field Value
Short Name of Publication automated-sar-image-thresholds-for-water-mask-production-in-alberta-s-boreal-region
Deliverable Type Journal article
Program Catagory
Program Type Provincial
Author Mahoney, C.; Merchant, M.; Boychuk, L.; Hopkinson, C.; Brisco, B.
Periodical Title Remote Sensing
Year of Publication 2020
Publishing Organization
Month of Publication July
Periodical Volumes
Page Range
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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