n113714SE Academic Article uri icon


  • Accurate areal measurements of snow cover extent are important for hydrological and climate modeling. The traditional method of mapping snow cover is binary where a pixel is considered either snow-covered or snow-free. Fractional snow cover (FSC) mapping can achieve a more precise estimate of areal snow cover extent by estimating the fraction of a pixel that is snow-covered. The most common snow fraction methods applied to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) images have been spectral unmixing and an empirical Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI). Machine learning is an alternative for estimating FSC as artificial neural networks (ANNs) have been successfully used for estimating the subpixel abundances of other surfaces. The advantages of ANNs are that they can easily incorporate auxiliary information such as land cover type and are capable of learning nonlinear relationships between surface reflectance and snow fraction. ANNs are especially applicable to mapping snow cover extent in forested areas where spatial mixing of surface components is nonlinear. This study developed a multilayer feed-forward ANN trained through backpropagation to estimate FSC using MODIS surface reflectance, NDSI, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and land cover as inputs. The ANN was trained and validated with higher spatial-resolution FSC maps derived from Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) binary snow cover maps. Testing of the network was accomplished over training and independent test areas. The developed network performed adequately with RMSE of 12% over training areas and slightly less accurately over the independent test scenes with RMSE of 14%. The developed ANN also compared favorably to the standard MODIS FSC product. The study also presents a comprehensive validation of the standard MODIS snow fraction product whose performance was found to be similar to that of the ANN. 2011 Elsevier Inc.

published proceedings

  • Remote Sensing of Environment

author list (cited authors)

  • Dobreva, I. D., & Klein, A. G.

publication date

  • January 1, 2011 11:11 AM