Detailed knowledge on surface water distribution and its changes is of high importance for water management and biodiversity conservation. Landsat-based assessments of surface water, such as the Global Surface Water (GSW) dataset developed by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), may not capture important changes in surface water during months with considerable cloud cover. This results in large temporal gaps in the Landsat record that prevent the accurate assessment of surface water dynamics. Here we show that the frequent global acquisitions by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) sensors can compensate for this shortcoming, and in addition allow for the examination of surface water changes at fine temporal resolution. To account for water bodies smaller than a MODIS cell, we developed a global rule-based regression model for estimating the surface water fraction from a 500 m nadir reflectance product from MODIS (MCD43A4). The model was trained and evaluated with the GSW monthly water history dataset. A high estimation accuracy (R2=0.91, RMSE =11.41 %, and MAE =6.39 %) was achieved. We then applied the algorithm to 18 years of MODIS data (2000–2017) to generate a time series of surface water fraction maps at an 8 d interval for the Mediterranean. From these maps we derived metrics including the mean annual maximum, the standard deviation, and the seasonality of surface water. The dynamic surface water extent estimates from MODIS were compared with the results from GSW and water level data measured in situ or by satellite altimetry, yielding similar temporal patterns. Our dataset complements surface water products at a fine spatial resolution by adding more temporal detail, which permits the effective monitoring and assessment of the seasonal, inter-annual, and long-term variability of water resources, inclusive of small water bodies.
Development and Validation of a Dense 18-Year Time Series of Surface Water Fraction Estimates from MODIS for the Mediterranean Region