US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing of Environment 115 (2011) 3377–3389; doi:10.1016/j.rse.2011.08.002


Spatiotemporal variations of wetland water in the Prairie Pothole Region are controlled by many factors; two of them are temperature and precipitation that form the basis of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Taking the 196 km2 Cottonwood Lake area in North Dakota as our pilot study site, we integrated PDSI, Landsat images, and aerial photography records to simulate monthly water surface. First, we developed a new Wetland Water Area Index (WWAI) from PDSI to predict water surface area. Second, we developed a water allocation model to simulate the spatial distribution of water bodies at a resolution of 30 m. Third, we used an additional procedure to model the small wetlands (less than 0.8 ha) that could not be detected by Landsat. Our results showed that i) WWAI was highly correlated with water area with an R2 of 0.90, resulting in a simple regression prediction of monthly water area to capture the intra- and inter-annual water change from 1910 to 2009; ii) the spatial distribution of water bodies modeled from our approach agreed well with the water locations visually identified from the aerial photography records; and iii) the R2 between our modeled water bodies (including both large and small wetlands) and those from aerial photography records could be up to 0.83 with a mean average error of 0.64 km2 within the study area where the modeled wetland water areas ranged from about 2 to 14 km2. These results indicate that our approach holds great potential to simulate major changes in wetland water surface for ecosystem service; however, our products could capture neither the short-term water change caused by intensive rainstorm events nor the wetland change caused by human activities.