Using Landsat and MODIS satellite collections to examine extent, timing, and potential impacts of surface water inundation in California croplands☆

Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment
By: , and 



The state of California, United States of America produces many crop products that are both utilized domestically and exported throughout the world. With nearly 39,000 km2 of croplands, monitoring unintentional and intentional surface water inundation is important for water resource management and flood hazard readiness. We examine inundation dynamics in California croplands from 2003 to 2020 by intersecting monthly surface water maps (n = 216 months) derived using two satellite remote sensing platforms (Landsat and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer [MODIS]) with a high-quality cropland map generated by the California Department of Water Resources. Surface water maps were produced using the Dynamic Surface Water Extent model, in which satellite image pixels are classified into different levels of detection confidence. Our analysis focused on calculating monthly and annual occurrence of “high confidence” water for each satellite collection across eight cropland types and 58 counties. Results indicate that 49.9% (MODIS) to 56.4% (Landsat) of croplands were inundated at least once during the 18-year timespan. Rice crops, due to their unique need of consistent surface water and dominance as a crop type in CA, had the highest proportion of and mean annual inundation area, while citrus crops had the lowest. Mean monthly inundation patterns in most croplands followed California's precipitation patterns with high inundation during the winter and spring rainy season. At the county level, croplands in the southern Central Valley typically had high occurrences of inundation in conjunction with large crop areas. Exposure and sensitivity of inundation for three crop types (citrus, deciduous, and vineyards) that are typically less associated with intentional inundation were geographically variable, but overall were generally highest in counties in the southern Central Valley, California's primary agricultural region. Flood and precipitation related crop insurance claims indicated that rice had the highest mean indemnity payout for any month with damages typically occurring in March and April. Insurance claims were also high in deciduous fruit and nut crops, which had peak damages in February. A comparison between inundation results and insurance claims suggests that the inundation mapped by our process coincides with claim activity. These data elucidate water inundation patterns across the state that can serve to inform farmers, insurers, decision makers, resource managers, and flood mitigation professionals.

    Study Area

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Using Landsat and MODIS satellite collections to examine extent, timing, and potential impacts of surface water inundation in California croplands☆
    Series title Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment
    DOI 10.1016/j.rsase.2022.100837
    Volume 28
    Year Published 2022
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Contributing office(s) Western Geographic Science Center
    Description 100837, 15 p.
    Country United States
    State California
    Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
    Additional publication details