The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLII-3/W8
22 Aug 2019
 | 22 Aug 2019


J. H. Reksten, A.-B. Salberg, and R. Solberg

Keywords: Flood detection, SAR, Sentinel-1, change detection

Abstract. After large flood incidents in Norway, The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), has the responsibility for documenting the flooded areas. This has so far mainly been performed by utilising aerial images and visual interpretation. Satellite images are a valuable source of additional information as they are able to cover vast areas in each satellite pass. In this paper a fully automated system for detecting and delineating floods with the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images from the Sentinel-1 satellites is presented. In SAR images wet areas and water bodies usually show lower backscatter than dry areas. The flood detection system is thus based on comparing a reference image acquired before the flood with the flood event image. A Sentinel-1 training dataset has been obtained and manually annotated by NVE from three flood events in Norway. This training set has been used to train a random forest (RF) classifier, which outputs a score for each pixel in the SAR image. This score image is thresholded in order to obtain a crude flood detection. Unfortunately, changes in the backscatter may also be triggered by other events such as melting snow and harvested fields of crops. To mitigate such lookalikes, several techniques have been implemented and tested. This includes masking based on size, slope and height above nearest drainage (HAND). The experiments presented show that the system performance is very good. Of the 179 manually labelled flood objects, 168 are detected. The system is being applied operationally at NVE.