Improving snow-cover mapping in forests through the use of a canopy reflectance model

Andrew G. Klein1, Dorothy Hall2, George A. Riggs3

1 Universities Space Research Association, Seabrook, MD 20706.
2 NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 974, Greenbelt, MD 20771.
3 Research and Data Systems Corporation, Greenbelt, MD 20770.

Entire PDF formatted paper.


MODIS, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, will be launched in 1998 as part of the first Earth Observing System (EOS) platform. Global maps of land surface properties, including snow cover, will be created from MODIS imagery. The MODIS snow-cover-mapping algorithm that will be used to produce daily maps of global snow-cover extent at 500 m resolution is currently under development.

With the exception of cloud cover, the largest limitation to producing a global daily snow-cover product using MODIS is the presence of a forest canopy. A Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) time series of the southern Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) study area in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, was used to evaluate the performance of the current MODIS snow-cover mapping algorithm in varying forest types. A snow reflectance model was used in conjunction with a canopy reflectance model (GeoSAIL) to model the reflectance of a snow-covered forest stand. Using these coupled models, the effects of varying forest type, canopy density, snow grain size, and solar illumination geometry on the performance of the MODIS snow-cover-mapping algorithm were investigated.

Using both the TM images and the reflectance models, two changes to the current MODIS snow-cover-mapping algorithm are proposed that will improve the algorithm's classification accuracy in forested areas. The improvements include using the Normalized Difference Snow Index and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index in combination to better discriminate between snow-covered and snow-free forests. A minimum albedo threshold of 10% in the visible wavelengths is also proposed. This will prevent dense forests with very low visible albedos from incorrectly being classified as snow. These two changes increase the amount of snow mapped in forests on snow-covered TM scenes, and decrease the area incorrectly identified as snow on non-snow covered TM scenes.