Dense Time Series Generation of Surface Water Extents through Optical–SAR Sensor Fusion and Gap Filling


Surface water is a vital component of the Earth’s water cycle and characterizing its dynamics is essential for understanding and managing our water resources. Satellite-based remote sensing has been used to monitor surface water dynamics, but cloud cover can obscure surface observations, particularly during flood events, hindering water identification. The fusion of optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data leverages the advantages of both sensors to provide accurate surface water maps while increasing the temporal density of unobstructed observations for monitoring surface water spatial dynamics. This paper presents a method for generating dense time series of surface water observations using optical–SAR sensor fusion and gap filling. We applied this method to data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Landsat 8 satellite data from 2019 over six regions spanning different ecological and climatological conditions. We validated the resulting surface water maps using an independent, hand-labeled dataset and found an overall accuracy of 0.9025, with an accuracy range of 0.8656–0.9212 between the different regions. The validation showed an overall false alarm ratio (FAR) of 0.0631, a probability of detection (POD) of 0.8394, and a critical success index (CSI) of 0.8073, indicating that the method generally performs well at identifying water areas. However, it slightly underpredicts water areas with more false negatives. We found that fusing optical and SAR data for surface water mapping increased, on average, the number of observations for the regions and months validated in 2019 from 11.46 for optical and 55.35 for SAR to 64.90 using both, a 466% and 17% increase, respectively. The results show that the method can effectively fill in gaps in optical data caused by cloud cover and produce a dense time series of surface water maps. The method has the potential to improve the monitoring of surface water dynamics and support sustainable water management.




Remote Sensing 16 (7): 1262 (2024)