n113706SE Academic Article uri icon


  • Field and aircraft measurements were acquired in April 1995 in central Alaska to map snow cover with MODIS Airborne Simulator (MAS) data, acquired from high-altitude aircraft. The Earth Observing System (EOS) Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) is a 36-channel system that will be launched on the EOS-AM-1 platform in 1999. A vegetation-density map derived from integrated reflectances (R(i)), from MAS data, is compared with an independently-produced vegetation type and density map derived from Thematic Mapper (TM) and ancillary data. The maps agreed to within 13%, thus corroborating the effectiveness of using the reflectance technique for mapping vegetation density. Snow cover was mapped on a 13 April 1995 MAS image, using the original MODIS prototype algorithm and an enhanced MODIS prototype algorithm. Field measurements revealed that the area was completely snow covered. With the original algorithm, snow was mapped in 96% of the pixels having <50% vegetation-cover density according to the R(i) map, while in the areas having vegetation-cover densities 50%, snow was mapped in only 71% of the pixels. When the enhanced MODIS snow-mapping algorithm was employed, 99% of the pixels having <50% vegetation-cover density were mapped, and 98% of the pixels with 50% vegetation-cover density were mapped as snow covered. These results demonstrate that the enhanced algorithm represents a significant improvement over the original MODIS prototype algorithm especially in the mapping of snow in dense vegetation. The enhanced algorithm will thus be adopted as the MODIS at-launch snow-cover algorithm. Using this simple method for estimating vegetation density from pixel reflectance, it will be possible to analyze the accuracy of the MODIS snow-cover algorithm in a range of vegetation-cover in places where information on vegetation-cover density is not available from ground measurements.

published proceedings

  • Remote Sensing of Environment

author list (cited authors)

  • Hall, D. K., Foster, J. L., Verbyla, D. L., Klein, A. G., & Benson, C. S.

publication date

  • January 1, 1998 11:11 AM