DYNAMICS OF GLOBAL SURFACE WATER 1999 - PRESENT
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Inland surface waters are critical to life, supplying fresh water and habitat, but are constantly in flux. There have been considerable advances in surface water monitoring over the last decade, though the extent of surface water has not been well-quantified per international reporting standards. Global characterizations of change have been primarily bi-temporal. This is problematic due to significant areas with multi-year cycles of wet and dry periods or anomalous high water or drought years. Many areas also exhibit strong seasonal fluctuations, such as floodplains and other natural wetlands. This dissertation aims to characterize open surface water extent dynamics by employing all of the Landsat archive 1999-present, and to report area estimates with associated uncertainty measures as required by policy guidelines. From 1999 to 2018, the extent of permanent water (in liquid or ice state) was 2.93 (standard error ±0.09) million km2, representing only 60.82 (±1.93)% of the total area that had water for some duration of the period. The unidirectional loss and gain areas were relatively small, accounting for only 1.10 (±0.23)% and 2.87 (±0.58)% of total water area, respectively. The area that transitioned multiple times between water and land states on an annual scale was over four times larger (19.74 (±2.16)%), totaling 0.95 (±0.10) million km2, establishing the need to evaluate the time-series from the entire period to assess change dynamics. From a seasonal perspective, June has over double the amount of open surface water as January, with 3.91 (±0.19) million km2 and 1.59 (±0.21) million km2, respectively. This is due to the vast network of lakes and rivers across the high-latitudes of the northern hemisphere that freeze over during the winter, with a maximum extent of ice over areas of permanent and seasonal water in February, totaling 2.49 (±0.25) million km2. This is the first global study to estimate the areas of extent and change with associated uncertainty measures and evaluate the seasonal dynamics of surface water and ice in a combined analysis. The methods developed here provide a framework for continuing to evaluate past trends and monitoring current dynamics of surface water and ice.