Accurate and frequent updates of surface water have been made possible by remote sensing technology. Index methods are mostly used for surface water estimation which separates the water from the background based on a threshold value. Generally, the threshold is a fixed value, but can be challenging in the case of environmental noise, such as shadow, forest, built-up areas, snow, and clouds. One such challenging scene can be found in Nepal where no such evaluation has been done. Taking that in consideration, this study evaluates the performance of the most widely used water indices: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), Modified NDWI (MNDWI), and Automated Water Extraction Index (AWEI) in a Landsat 8 scene of Nepal. The scene, ranging from 60 m to 8848 m, contains various types of water bodies found in Nepal with different forms of environmental noise. The evaluation was conducted based on measures from a confusion matrix derived using validation points. Comparing visually and quantitatively, not a single method was able to extract surface water in the entire scene with better accuracy. Upon selecting optimum thresholds, the overall accuracy (OA) and kappa coefficient (kappa) was improved, but not satisfactory. NDVI and NDWI showed better results for only pure water pixels, whereas MNDWI and AWEI were unable to reject snow cover and shadows. Combining NDVI with NDWI and AWEI with shadow improved the accuracy but inherited the NDWI and AWEI characteristics. Segmenting the test scene with elevations above and below 665 m, and using NDVI and NDWI for detecting water, resulted in an OA of 0.9638 and kappa of 0.8979. The accuracy can be further improved with a smaller interval of categorical characteristics in one or multiple scenes.
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