EGU21-13762, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Landsat thermal infrared to detect sub-canopy riparian flooding

Emanuel Storey1, Witold Krajewski2, and Efthymios Nikolopoulos1
Emanuel Storey et al.
  • 1Florida Institute of Technology, Civil & Mechanical Engineering, Melbourne Beach, United States of America (
  • 2Hydroscience & Engineering, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, United States of America

Satellite based flood detection can enhance understanding of risk to humans and infrastructures, geomorphic processes, and ecological effects.  Such application of optical satellite imagery has been mostly limited to the detection of water exposed to sky, as plant canopies tend to obstruct water visibility in short electromagnetic wavelengths.  This case study evaluates the utility in multi-temporal thermal infrared observations from Landsat 8 as a basis for detecting sub-canopy fluvial inundation resulting in ambient temperature change.

We selected three flood events of 2016 and 2019 along sections of the Mississippi, Cedar, and Wapsipinicon Rivers located in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, United States.  Classification of sub-canopy water involved logical, threshold-exceedance criteria to capture thermal decline within channel-adjacent vegetated zones.  Open water extent in the floods was mapped based on short-wave infrared thresholds determined parametrically from baseline (non-flooded) observations.  Map accuracy was evaluated using higher-resolution (0.5–5.0 m) synchronic optical imagery.

Results demonstrate improved ability to detect sub-canopy inundation when thermal infrared change is incorporated: sub-canopy flood class accuracy was comparable to that of open water in previous studies.  The multi-temporal open-water mapping technique yielded high accuracy as compared to similar studies.  This research highlights the utility of Landsat thermal infrared data for monitoring riparian inundation and for validating other remotely sensed and simulated flood maps.

How to cite: Storey, E., Krajewski, W., and Nikolopoulos, E.: Landsat thermal infrared to detect sub-canopy riparian flooding, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13762,, 2021.