Flood occurrence mapping of the middle Mahakam lowland area using satellite radar
Abstract. Floodplain lakes and peatlands in the middle Mahakam lowland area are considered as ecologically important wetland in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. However, due to a lack of data, the hydrological functioning of the region is still poorly understood. Among remote sensing techniques that can increase data availability, radar is well-suitable for the identification, mapping, and measurement of tropical wetlands, for its cloud unimpeded sensing and night and day operation. Here we aim to extract flood extent and flood occurrence information from a series of radar images of the middle Mahakam lowland area. We explore the use of Phased Array L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) imagery for observing flood inundation dynamics by incorporating field water level measurements. Water level measurements were carried out along the river, in lakes and in peatlands, using pressure transducers. For validation of the open water flood occurrence map, bathymetry measurements were carried out in the main lakes. A series of PALSAR images covering the middle and lower Mahakam area in the years 2007 through 2010 were collected. A fully inundated region can be easily recognized on radar images from a dark signature. Open water flood occurrence was mapped using a threshold value taken from radar backscatter of the permanently inundated river and lakes areas. Radar backscatter intensity analysis of the vegetated floodplain area revealed consistently high backscatter values, indicating flood inundation under forest canopy. We used those values as the threshold for flood occurrence mapping in the vegetated area.