Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
24 Mar 2015
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript for further review has not been submitted.
First Sentinel-1 detections of avalanche debris
E. Malnes, M. Eckerstorfer, and H. Vickers Norut (Northern Research Institute), Dept. Earth Observation, Tromsø Science Park, 9294, Tromsø, Norway
Abstract. Snow avalanches are natural hazards, occurring in snow covered mountain terrain worldwide. Present avalanche research and forecasting relies on complete avalanche activity records in a given area over an entire winter season, which cannot be provided with traditional, mainly field based methods. Remote sensing, using weather, and light independent SAR satellites has the potential of filling these data gaps, however, to date their use was limited by high acquisition costs, long repeat cycles, and small ground swath. Sentinel-1A (S1A), on the other hand, operational since October 2014 provides free-of-charge, 20 m spatial resolution, 250 km × 150 km ground swath images every 12 days. In this paper, we present for the first time, that it is possible to detect avalanche debris using S1A images. We successfully apply a change detection method that enhances avalanche debris zones, by comparing repeat pass images before and after the avalanche occurred. Due to the increase in backscatter from avalanche debris, manual detection is possible. With this first proof-of-concept, we show the detection of 489 avalanche debris zones in a S1A image from 6 January 2015, covering the counties Troms and parts of Nordland in Northern Norway. We validate our avalanche detection using very high resolution Radarsat-2 Ultrafine images, as well as extensive field reconnaissance. Our results give us confidence, that S1A detection of avalanches is a critical step towards operational use of SAR avalanche detection in avalanche forecasting.

Citation: Malnes, E., Eckerstorfer, M., and Vickers, H.: First Sentinel-1 detections of avalanche debris, The Cryosphere Discuss., 9, 1943-1963,, 2015.
E. Malnes et al.
Interactive discussionStatus: closed (peer review stopped)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version      Supplement - Supplement
RC C704: 'Comments on “First Sentinel-1 detections of avalanche debris”', Anonymous Referee #1, 06 May 2015 Printer-friendly Version 
AC C717: 'Response to Anonymous referee # 1', Eirik Malnes, 07 May 2015 Printer-friendly Version 
RC C1139: 'Review', Anonymous Referee #2, 03 Jul 2015 Printer-friendly Version 
E. Malnes et al.
E. Malnes et al.


Total article views: 887 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)

HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
509 306 72 887 34 69

Views and downloads (calculated since 24 Mar 2015)

Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 24 Mar 2015)



Latest update: 20 Aug 2017
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
During an avalanche cycle in January 2015 in northern Norway we used repeat pass Sentinel-1 images to map avalanches. Avalanche debris shows up as increased backscatter in repeat pass images. We detected 489 avalanches in a single scene. Results were validated using high resolution SAR data and field reconnaissance. The results are very promising, and pave the way for operational avalanche monitoring using SAR. Sentinel-1 grant frequent coverage with high quality to monitor avalanches.
During an avalanche cycle in January 2015 in northern Norway we used repeat pass Sentinel-1...