Publications in Scientific Journals:
S. Schlaffer, M. Chini, W. Dorigo, S. Plank:
"Monitoring surface water dynamics in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota using dual-polarised Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) time series";
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences,
The North American Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) represents a large system of wetlands with great importance for biodiversity, water storage and flood management. Knowledge of seasonal and inter-annual surface water dynamics in the PPR is important for understanding the functionality of these wetland ecosystems and the changing degree of hydrologic connectivity between them. Optical sensors that are widely used for retrieving such information are often limited by their temporal resolution and cloud cover, especially in the case of flood events. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors can potentially overcome such limitations. However, water extent retrieval from SAR data is often impacted by environmental factors, such as wind on water surfaces. Hence, robust retrieval methods are required to reliably monitor water extent over longer time periods.
The aim of this study was to develop a robust approach for classifying open water extent in the PPR and to analyse the obtained time series covering the entire available Sentinel-1 observation period from 2015 to 2020 in the hydrometeorological context. Open water in prairie potholes was classified by fusing dual-polarised Sentinel-1 data and high-resolution topographical information using a Bayesian framework. The approach was tested for a study area in North Dakota. The resulting surface water maps were validated using high-resolution airborne optical imagery. For the observation period, the total water area, the number of waterbodies and the median area per waterbody were computed. The validation of the retrieved water maps yielded producerīs accuracies between 84 % and 95 % for calm days and between 74 % and 88 % for windy days. Userīs accuracies were above 98 % in all cases, indicating a very low occurrence of false positives due to the constraints introduced by topographical information.
The observed dynamics of total water area displayed both intra-annual and inter-annual patterns. In addition to differences in seasonality between small (<1 ha) and large (>1 ha) waterbodies due to the effect of evaporation during summer, these size classes also responded differently to an extremely wet period from 2019 to 2020 in terms of the increase in the number of waterbodies and the total area covered. The results demonstrate the potential of Sentinel-1 data for high-resolution monitoring of prairie wetlands. Limitations of this method are related to wind inhibiting the correct water extent retrieval and to the rather long acquisition interval of 12 d over the PPR, which is a result of the observation strategy of Sentinel-1.
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