Theia releases first batch of snow products

We are pleased to announce that Theia has put online 93 Sentinel-2 snow products, corresponding to 6 tiles in the Alps, Pyrenees, and Atlas mountains between July 2016 to November 2016. 300 more products should be available next week. The operational production should start in autumn 2017 (i.e. near real time), and will cover a larger area. We will also strive to improve the products based on the users feedbacks!

Time series of available products for tile 30TYN (Pyrenees)

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3D views of Aru Co avalanches from Pléiades stereo imagery

A Pléiades stereo pair has been acquired on 2016-Oct-01 just a few days after the second glacier collapse in the Aru mountains. The panchromatic band has 0.5 m resolution, which allowed us to generate a post-event digital elevation model of the area. From this digital elevation model and the Pléiades 2 m multispectral imagery, Etienne Berthier generated these stunning 3D views of the aftermath...

Preliminary estimates of the volume detached from the glaciers are 66 Mm3 (first, north one) 83 Mm3 (second, southern one).

Monitoring the snow cover in ski resorts using Sentinel-2

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We are preparing the distribution of maps of the snow cover extent made from the Sentinel-2 data for Theia. If the method used to detect the snow is based on well-proven concepts, spatial and temporal resolution of the snow maps will however quite unprecedented. Until now, maps of the snow cover extent were usually produced from MODIS observations at 500 m resolution, which is adapted to hydro-climatic studies to rather regional scales. Landsat data were actually little exploited by snow scientists because of their low repeatability. The deployment of Sentinel-2 mission (global coverage at 20 m resolution every 5 days) opens new perspectives for monitoring snow cover.
 
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Sentinel-2A (and Landsat-8) capture a giant ice avalanche in Tibet

After reading my previous post about the Rutog ice avalanche, my distinguished colleagues Antoine R. and Olivier H. challenged me to look for a pre-event image to better highlight the avalanche area. The closest clear-sky image that I could find is a Landsat-8 image that was acquired on June 24 (23 days before the slide).

 

Sequence of two Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2A images. Both images are level 1 product displayed as natural color composites. Click to enlarge.

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Sentinel-2A captures a giant ice avalanche in Tibet

The Nature News website reported yesterday on a massive ice avalanche that happened in Rutog, Tibet, on 17 July 2016. This ice avalanche killed 9 people and may be one the largest ever observed. The ice and rock mixture spread over 6 km from the collapse point up to the Aru Co lake shoreline.

Sentinel-2A image of the Rutog ice avalanche acquired on 21-Jul-2016 (4 days after the event). Click on the image to see at full resolution (1 pixel = 10m).

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Snow and Fire in the Dragon mountains

NASA's blog "Image of the Day" recently featured two beautiful MODIS images of the snow cover in Lesotho. In late July Lesotho experienced its heaviest snowfall in two decades. The snow is not uncommon in Lesotho given that over 80% of the country lies above 1800 m (wikipedia). However the frequency of such snow events has been reducing over the past decades due to the ongoing climate change. As a result the shepherds are less accustomed to the snow conditions so that "a severe storm like the one in July 2016 has greater potential to kill sheep and shepherds" [1]. Continue reading

Kittens time series

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Optical remote sensing is great to map the snow cover extent in mountain regions as long as there is no cloud above the land surface. Radar remote sensing of the snow cover is not operational yet mainly because the backscatter from the snow surface is strongly dependent on the snowpack liquid water content. On the ground, however, thousands of people are observing the snow cover in the mountains, everyday. Some of them take photographs and kindly upload them to photo-sharing websites with a public license. Many of these photos are geotagged, either because the cameras have built-in GPS, or because the users added geographical coordinates when publishing their album.
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First Sentinel-2 snow map

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In the framework of the THEIA land data center, we have developed a simple but robust method to map the snow cover from Sentinel-2-like level 2A products. This code was tested with SPOT-4 Take-5 and Landsat-8 series, but it remained to adapt it so that it can run on real Sentinel-2 images! This is now done thanks to Manuel Grizonnet, which allowed us to process the Sentinel-2A image acquired on 06-July-2015 in the Pyrenees as a first example. This image was produced at level 2A by Olivier Hagolle using the MACCS processor. The snow mask from Sentinel-2 images is calculated at 20 m resolution after resampling the green and red bands that are originally at 10 m resolution while the NIR band is at 20 m.

How to make sure everything went well? We can control the snow mask by superposing the mask boundaries on a false color composite:

 

The Sentinel-2A image of 06-July-2015 (level 2A, tile 30TYN) and its snow mask. The snow mask is in magenta and the background image is a color composite RGB NIR/Red/Green. We also show a zoom in the Vignemale area.

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