Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Computer Science


Irina Gladkova

Committee Members

Michael Grossberg

Robert M. Haralick

Peter Romanov

Alexey Kaplan

Subject Categories

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics | Atmospheric Sciences | Environmental Monitoring | Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing


snow cover, sea ice extent, MODIS, VIIRS, AMSR-2, SSM/I


The continuous mapping of snow and ice cover, particularly in the arctic and poles, are critical to understanding the earth and atmospheric science. Much of the world's sea ice and snow covers the most inhospitable places, making measurements from satellite-based remote sensors essential. Despite the wealth of data from these instruments many challenges remain. For instance, remote sensing instruments reside on-board different satellites and observe the earth at different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum with different spatial footprints. Integrating and fusing this information to make estimates of the surface is a subject of active research.

In response to these challenges, this dissertation will present two algorithms that utilize methods from statistics and machine learning, with the goal of improving on the quality and accuracy of current snow and sea ice detection products. The first algorithm aims at implementing snow detection using optical/infrared instrument data. The novelty in this approach is that the classifier is trained using ground station measurements of snow depth that are collocated with the reflectance observed at the satellite. Several classification methods are compared using this training data to identify the one yielding the highest accuracy and optimal space/time complexity. The algorithm is then evaluated against the current operational NASA snow product and it is found that it produces comparable and in some cases superior accuracy results. The second algorithm presents a fully automated approach to sea ice detection that integrates data obtained from passive microwave and optical/infrared satellite instruments. For a particular region of interest the algorithm generates sea ice maps of each individual satellite overpass and then aggregates them to a daily composite level, maximizing the amount of high resolution information available. The algorithm is evaluated at both, the individual satellite overpass level, and at the daily composite level. Results show that at the single overpass level for clear-sky regions, the developed multi-sensor algorithm performs with accuracy similar to that of the optical/infrared products, with the advantage of being able to also classify partially cloud-obscured regions with the help of passive microwave data. At the daily composite level, results show that the algorithm's performance with respect to total ice extent is in line with other daily products, with the novelty of being fully automated and having higher resolution.