Estimating Impervious Surface Cover in Flathead County, Montana

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Virginia Tech


Northwest Montana has seen a significant increase in its population in the past twenty years. The increase in population, and associated development, is thought to be associated with "amenity migration"; people moving to an area to exploit the recreational opportunities that are unique to that area. Impervious surfaces can serve as a suitable proxy for tracking the spread of various anthropogenic influences on an ecosystem; it impacts groundwater recharge, increases overall surface runoff as well as pollution and sediment load, and fragments landscapes. In this study, an Artificial Neural Network model was developed to update NLCD impervious surface product (2011) in Flathead County, Montana. Four Landsat 8 images from 2015 and 2016 were used to characterize imperviousness. This multi-temporal analytical method was designed to reduce the spectral confusion between impervious surface and soil/agricultural lands. We compared the neural network-predicted impervious surface maps with 2011 NLCD. When all four neural network prediction images agreed with a change of 50% or more from the 2011 NLCD map, the average of those four images replaced that pixel from the 2011 imperviousness map. Compared to the ground truth, the method used showed significant promise, with an R2 of 0.73 and RMSE of 0.123. A comparison of the artificial neural network model results and the 2011 NLCD data showed a continuation of urbanization trends; the urban cores of towns in the study remain static while the majority of impervious surface development takes place along the perimeter of urban areas.



remote sensing, neural network, NLCD, impervious surface cover