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A Machine Learning Framework for Detecting Land Slides on Earthen Levees Using Spaceborne SAR Imagery

Mahrooghy, M., Aanstoos, J.V., Prasad, S., Hasan, K., Nobrega, R. A. A., & Younan, N. H. (2015). A Machine Learning Framework for Detecting Land Slides on Earthen Levees Using Spaceborne SAR Imagery. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. IEEE. 8(8), 3791 - 3801.


Earthen levees have a significant role in protecting large areas of inhabited and cultivated land in the United States from flooding. Failure of the levees can result in loss of life and property. Slough slides are among the problems which can lead to complete levee failure during a high water event. In this paper, we develop a method to detect such slides using X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data. Our proposed methodology includes: radiometric normalization of the TerraSAR image using high-resolution digital elevation map (DEM) data; extraction of features including backscatter and texture features from the levee; a feature selection method based on minimum redundancy maximum relevance (mRMR); and training a support vector machine (SVM) classifier and testing on the area of interest. To validate the proposed methodology, ground-truth data are collected from slides and healthy areas of the levee. The study area is part of the levee system along the lower Mississippi River in the United States. The output classes are healthy and slide areas of the levee. The results show the average classification accuracies of approximately 0.92 and Cohen's kappa measures of 0.85 for both healthy and slide pixels using ten optimal features selected by mRMR with a sigmoid SVM. A comparison of the SVM performance to the maximum likelihood (ML) and back propagation neural network (BPNN) shows that the average accuracy of the SVM is superior to that of the BPNN and ML classifiers.

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