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Carroll, ML, Townshend, JR, DiMiceli, CM, Noojipady, P, Sohlberg, RA (2009). A new global raster water mask at 250 m resolution. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DIGITAL EARTH, 2(4), 291-308.

Accurate depiction of the land and water is critical for the production of land surface parameters from remote sensing data products. Certain parameters, including the land surface temperature, active fires and surface reflectance, can be processed differently when the underlying surface is water as compared with land. Substantial errors in the underlying water mask can then pervade into these products and any products created from them. Historically many global databases have been created to depict global surface water. These databases still fall short of the current needs of the terrestrial remote sensing community working at 250 m spatial resolution. The most recent attempt to address the problem uses the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data set to create the SRTM Water Body Data set (SWBD 2005). The SWBD represents a good first step but still requires additional work to expand the spatial coverage to include the whole globe and to address some erroneous discontinuities in major river networks. To address this issue a new water mask product has been created using the SWBD in combination with MODIS 250 m data to create a complete global map of surface water at 250 m spatial resolution. This effort is automated and intended to produce a dataset for use in processing of raster data (MODIS and future instruments) and for masking out water in final terrestrial raster data products. This new global dataset is produced from remotely sensed data and provided to the public in digital format, free of charge. The data set can be found on the Global Land Cover Facility (GLCF) website at This dataset is expected to be a base set of information to describe the surface of Earth as either land or water which is a fundamental distinction upon which other descriptions can be made.



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