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Mapping avalanches with satellites – evaluation of performance and completeness


Hafner, Elisabeth D; Techel, Frank; Leinss, Silvan; Bühler, Yves (2021). Mapping avalanches with satellites – evaluation of performance and completeness. The Cryosphere, 15(2):983-1004.

Abstract

The spatial distribution and size of avalanches are essential parameters for avalanche warning, avalanche documentation, mitigation measure design and hazard zonation. Despite its importance, this information is incomplete today and only available for limited areas and limited time periods. Manual avalanche mapping from satellite imagery has recently been applied to reduce this gap achieving promising results. However, their reliability and completeness have not yet been verified satisfactorily.

In our study we attempt a full validation of the completeness of visually detected and mapped avalanches from optical SPOT 6, Sentinel-2 and radar Sentinel-1 imagery. We examine manually mapped avalanches from two avalanche periods in 2018 and 2019 for an area of approximately 180 km2 around Davos, Switzerland, relying on ground- and helicopter-based photographs as ground truth. For the quality assessment, we investigate the probability of detection (POD) and the positive predictive value (PPV). Additionally, we relate our results to conditions which potentially influence avalanche detection in the satellite imagery.

We statistically confirm the high potential of SPOT for comprehensive avalanche mapping for selected periods (POD = 0.74, PPV = 0.88) as well as the reliability of Sentinel-1 (POD = 0.27, PPV = 0.87) for which the POD is reduced because mainly larger avalanches are mapped. Furthermore, we found that Sentinel-2 is unsuitable for the mapping of most avalanches due to its spatial resolution (POD = 0.06, PPV = 0.81). Because we could apply the same reference avalanche events for all three satellite mappings, our validation results are robust and comparable. We demonstrate that satellite-based avalanche mapping has the potential to fill the existing avalanche documentation gap over large areas, making alpine regions safer.

Abstract

The spatial distribution and size of avalanches are essential parameters for avalanche warning, avalanche documentation, mitigation measure design and hazard zonation. Despite its importance, this information is incomplete today and only available for limited areas and limited time periods. Manual avalanche mapping from satellite imagery has recently been applied to reduce this gap achieving promising results. However, their reliability and completeness have not yet been verified satisfactorily.

In our study we attempt a full validation of the completeness of visually detected and mapped avalanches from optical SPOT 6, Sentinel-2 and radar Sentinel-1 imagery. We examine manually mapped avalanches from two avalanche periods in 2018 and 2019 for an area of approximately 180 km2 around Davos, Switzerland, relying on ground- and helicopter-based photographs as ground truth. For the quality assessment, we investigate the probability of detection (POD) and the positive predictive value (PPV). Additionally, we relate our results to conditions which potentially influence avalanche detection in the satellite imagery.

We statistically confirm the high potential of SPOT for comprehensive avalanche mapping for selected periods (POD = 0.74, PPV = 0.88) as well as the reliability of Sentinel-1 (POD = 0.27, PPV = 0.87) for which the POD is reduced because mainly larger avalanches are mapped. Furthermore, we found that Sentinel-2 is unsuitable for the mapping of most avalanches due to its spatial resolution (POD = 0.06, PPV = 0.81). Because we could apply the same reference avalanche events for all three satellite mappings, our validation results are robust and comparable. We demonstrate that satellite-based avalanche mapping has the potential to fill the existing avalanche documentation gap over large areas, making alpine regions safer.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Water Science and Technology
Physical Sciences > Earth-Surface Processes
Uncontrolled Keywords:Earth-Surface Processes, Water Science and Technology
Language:English
Date:24 February 2021
Deposited On:01 Mar 2021 09:23
Last Modified:24 Jun 2024 01:48
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:1994-0416
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-15-983-2021
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)