Estimating Fractional Snow Cover in Open Terrain from Sentinel-2 Using the Normalized Difference Snow Index

Gascoin, Simon ; Barrou Dumont, Zacharie ; Deschamps-Berger, César ; Marti, Florence ; Salgues, Germain ; López-Moreno, Juan Ignacio ; Revuelto, Jesús ; Michon, Timothée ; Schattan, Paul ; Hagolle, Olivier

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<p align=justify>Sentinel-2 provides the opportunity to map the snow cover at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions on a global scale. Here we calibrate and evaluate a simple empirical function to estimate the fractional snow cover (FSC) in open terrains using the normalized difference snow index (NDSI) from 20 m resolution Sentinel-2 images. The NDSI is computed from flat surface reflectance after masking cloud and snow-free areas. The NDSI-FSC function is calibrated using Pléiades very high-resolution images and evaluated using independent datasets including SPOT 6/7 satellite images, time lapse camera photographs, terrestrial lidar scans and crowd-sourced in situ measurements. The calibration results show that the FSC can be represented with a sigmoid-shaped function 0.5 × tanh(a × NDSI + b) + 0.5, where a = 2.65 and b = −1.42, yielding a root mean square error (RMSE) of 25%. Similar RMSE are obtained with different evaluation datasets with a high topographic variability. With this function, we estimate that the confidence interval on the FSC retrievals is 38% at the 95% confidence level.</p>
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