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Michigan Tech Research Institute


In this study, a new method is proposed for semi-automated surface water detection using synthetic aperture radar data via a combination of radiometric thresholding and image segmentation based on the simple linear iterative clustering superpixel algorithm. Consistent intensity thresholds are selected by assessing the statistical distribution of backscatter values applied to the mean of each superpixel. Higher-order texture measures, such as variance, are used to improve accuracy by removing false positives via an additional thresholding process used to identify the boundaries of water bodies. Results applied to quad-polarized RADARSAT-2 data show that the threshold value for the variance texture measure can be approximated using a constant value for different scenes, and thus it can be used in a fully automated cleanup procedure. Compared to similar approaches, errors of omission and commission are improved with the proposed method. For example, we observed that a threshold-only approach consistently tends to underestimate the extent of water bodies compared to combined thresholding and segmentation, mainly due to the poor performance of the former at the edges of water bodies. The proposed method can be used for monitoring changes in surface water extent within wetlands or other areas, and while presented for use with radar data, it can also be used to detect surface water in optical images.

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© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

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Remote Sensing

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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