Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

High-frequency time series comparison of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 for open and vegetated water across the United States (2017-2021)

February 15, 2023

Frequent observations of surface water at fine spatial scales will provide critical data to support the management of aquatic habitat, flood risk and water quality. Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites can provide such observations, but algorithms are still needed that perform well across diverse climate and vegetation conditions. We developed surface inundation algorithms for Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2, respectively, at 12 sites across the conterminous United States (CONUS), covering a total of >536,000 km2 and representing diverse hydrologic and vegetation landscapes. Each scene in the 5-year (2017–2021) time series was classified into open water, vegetated water, and non-water at 20 m resolution using variables from Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2, as well as variables derived from topographic and weather datasets. The Sentinel-1 algorithm was developed distinct from the Sentinel-2 model to explore if and where the two time series could potentially be integrated into a single high-frequency time series. Within each model, open water and vegetated water (vegetated palustrine, lacustrine, and riverine wetlands) classes were mapped. The models were validated using imagery from WorldView and PlanetScope. Classification accuracy for open water was high across the 5-year period, with an omission and commission error of only 3.1% and 0.9% for the Sentinel-1 algorithm and 3.1% and 0.5% for the Sentinel-2 algorithm, respectively. Vegetated water accuracy was lower, as expected given that the class represents mixed pixels. The Sentinel-2 algorithm showed higher accuracy (10.7% omission and 7.9% commission error) relative to the Sentinel-1 algorithm (28.4% omission and 16.0% commission error). Patterns over time in the proportion of area mapped as open or vegetated water by the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 algorithms were charted and correlated for a subset of all 12 sites. Our results showed that the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 algorithm open water time series can be integrated at all 12 sites to improve the temporal resolution, but sensor-specific differences, such as sensitivity to vegetation structure versus pixel color, complicate the data integration for mixed-pixel, vegetated water. The methods developed here provide inundation at 5-day (Sentinel-2 algorithm) and 12-day (Sentinel-1 algorithm) time steps to improve our understanding of the short- and long-term response of surface water to climate and land use drivers in different ecoregions.

Publication Year 2023
Title High-frequency time series comparison of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 for open and vegetated water across the United States (2017-2021)
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2023.113498
Authors Melanie K. Vanderhoof, Laurie C. Alexander, Jay Christensen, Kylen Solvik, Peter Joseph Nieuwlandt, Mallory Annelle Prentiss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing of Environment
Index ID 70241542
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center