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Water Observations from Space: Mapping Surface Water from 25 Years of Landsat Imagery across Australia

Water Observations from Space

Adam Lewis, Leo Lymburner, Matthew B. J. Purss, Brendan Brookea, Ben Evans, Alex Ip, Arnold G. Dekker, James R. Irons, Stuart Minchin, Norman Mueller, Simon Oliver, Dale Roberts, Barbara Ryan, Medhavy Thankappan, Rob Woodcock & Lesley Wyborn

Following extreme flooding in eastern Australia in 2011, the Australian Government established a programme to improve access to flood information across Australia. As part of this, a project was undertaken to map the extent of surface water across Australia using the multi-decadal archive of Landsat satellite imagery. A water detection algorithm was used based on a decision tree classifier, and a comparison methodology using a logistic regression.

This approach provided an understanding of the confidence in the water observations. The results were used to map the presence of surface water across the entire continent from every observation of 27 years of satellite imagery. The Water Observation from Space (WOfS) product provides insight into the behaviour of surface water across Australia through time, demonstrating where water is persistent, such as in reservoirs, and where it is ephemeral, such as on floodplains during a flood.

In addition the WOfS product is useful for studies of wetland extent, aquatic species behaviour, hydrological models, land surface process modelling and groundwater recharge. This paper describes the WOfS methodology and shows how similar time-series analyses of nationally significant environmental variables might be conducted at the continental scale.

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Updated:   18 February 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team