Mapping snow depth in open alpine terrain from stereo satellite imagery
- 1Géographie de l'Environnement (GEODE), UT2J/CNRS, Toulouse, France
- 2Centre d'Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère (CESBIO), UPS/CNRS/IRD/CNES, Toulouse, France
- 3Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, (LEGOS), UPS/CNRS/IRD/CNES, Toulouse, France
- 4GeoFalco, Longages, France
Abstract. To date, there is no definitive approach to map snow depth in mountainous areas from spaceborne sensors. Here, we examine the potential of very-high-resolution (VHR) optical stereo satellites to this purpose. Two triplets of 0.70 m resolution images were acquired by the Pléiades satellite over an open alpine catchment (14.5 km2) under snow-free and snow-covered conditions. The open-source software Ame's Stereo Pipeline (ASP) was used to match the stereo pairs without ground control points to generate raw photogrammetric clouds and to convert them into high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) at 1, 2, and 4 m resolutions. The DEM differences (dDEMs) were computed after 3-D coregistration, including a correction of a −0.48 m vertical bias. The bias-corrected dDEM maps were compared to 451 snow-probe measurements. The results show a decimetric accuracy and precision in the Pléiades-derived snow depths. The median of the residuals is −0.16 m, with a standard deviation (SD) of 0.58 m at a pixel size of 2 m. We compared the 2 m Pléiades dDEM to a 2 m dDEM that was based on a winged unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) photogrammetric survey that was performed on the same winter date over a portion of the catchment (3.1 km2). The UAV-derived snow depth map exhibits the same patterns as the Pléiades-derived snow map, with a median of −0.11 m and a SD of 0.62 m when compared to the snow-probe measurements. The Pléiades images benefit from a very broad radiometric range (12 bits), allowing a high correlation success rate over the snow-covered areas. This study demonstrates the value of VHR stereo satellite imagery to map snow depth in remote mountainous areas even when no field data are available.