Imaging radar is a promising tool for mapping snow and ice cover in alpine regions. It combines a high-resolution, day or night, all-weather imaging capability with sensitivity to hydrologie and climatic snow and ice parameters. We use the spaceborne imaging radar-C/X-band synthetic aperture radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) to map snow and glacial ice on the rugged north slope of Mount Everest. From interferometrically derived digital elevation data, we compute the terrain calibration factor and cosine of the local illumination angle. We then process and terrain-correct radar data sets acquired on April 16, 1994. In addition to the spectral data, we include surface slope to improve discrimination among several surface types. These data sets are then used in a decision tree to generate an image classification. This method is successful in identifying and mapping scree/talus, dry snow, dry snow-covered glacier, wet snow-covered glacier, and rock-covered glacier, as corroborated by comparison with existing surface cover maps and other ancillary information. Application of the classification scheme to data acquired on October 7 of the same year yields accurate results for most surface types but underreports the extent of dry snow cover. Copyright 1998 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Classification of surface types using SIR-C/X-SAR, Mount Everest Area, Tibet