Automated mapping of persistent ice and snow cover across the western U.S. with Landsat

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Forster, RIchard R.
By:  and 

Links

Abstract

We implemented an automated approach for mapping persistent ice and snow cover (PISC) across the conterminous western U.S. using all available Landsat TM and ETM+ scenes acquired during the late summer/early fall period between 2010 and 2014. Two separate validation approaches indicate this dataset provides a more accurate representation of glacial ice and perennial snow cover for the region than either the U.S. glacier database derived from US Geological Survey (USGS) Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) maps (based on aerial photography primarily from the 1960s–1980s) or the National Land Cover Database 2011 perennial ice and snow cover class. Our 2010–2014 Landsat-derived dataset indicates 28% less glacier and perennial snow cover than the USGS DRG dataset. There are larger differences between the datasets in some regions, such as the Rocky Mountains of Northwest Wyoming and Southwest Montana, where the Landsat dataset indicates 54% less PISC area. Analysis of Landsat scenes from 1987–1988 and 2008–2010 for three regions using a more conventional, semi-automated approach indicates substantial decreases in glaciers and perennial snow cover that correlate with differences between PISC mapped by the USGS DRG dataset and the automated Landsat-derived dataset. This suggests that most of the differences in PISC between the USGS DRG and the Landsat-derived dataset can be attributed to decreases in PISC, as opposed to differences between mapping techniques. While the dataset produced by the automated Landsat mapping approach is not designed to serve as a conventional glacier inventory that provides glacier outlines and attribute information, it allows for an updated estimate of PISC for the conterminous U.S. as well as for smaller regions. Additionally, the new dataset highlights areas where decreases in PISC have been most significant over the past 25–50 years.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Automated mapping of persistent ice and snow cover across the western U.S. with Landsat
Series title ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
DOI 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2016.04.001
Volume 117
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Geography
Description 15 p.
First page 126
Last page 140