Development of a technique to assess snow-cover mapping errors from space Academic Article uri icon


  • Following the December 18, 1999, launch of the Earth Observing System (EOS) Terra satellite, daily snow-cover mapping is performed automatically at a spatial resolution of 500 m, cloud-cover permitting, using moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) data. This paper describes a technique for calculating global-scale snow mapping errors and provides estimates of Northern Hemisphere snow mapping errors based on prototype MODIS snow mapping algorithms. Field studies demonstrate that under cloud-free conditions, when snow cover is complete, snow mapping errors are small (< 1%) in all land covers studied except forests, where errors are often greater and more variable. Thus, the accuracy of Northern Hemisphere snow-cover maps is largely determined by percent of forest cover north of the snowline. From the 17-class International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) land-cover maps of North America and Eurasia, we classify the Northern Hemisphere into seven land-cover classes and water. Estimated snow mapping errors in each of the land-cover classes are extrapolated to the entire. Northern Hemisphere for areas north of the average continental snowline for each month. The resulting average monthly errors are expected to vary, ranging from about 5-10%, with the larger errors occurring during the months when snow covers the boreal forest in the Northern Hemisphere. As determined using prototype MODIS data, the annual average estimated error of the future Northern Hemisphere snow-cover maps is approximately 8% in the absence of cloud cover, assuming complete snow cover. Preliminary error estimates will be refined after MODIS data have been available for about one year.

published proceedings

  • IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Hall, D. K., Foster, J. L., Salomonson, V. V., Klein, A. G., & Chien, J

citation count

  • 85

complete list of authors

  • Hall, DK||Foster, JL||Salomonson, VV||Klein, AG||Chien, JYL

publication date

  • January 2001