Saline wetlands experience large temporal fluctuations in water supply during the year and are recharged only or mainly through precipitation, meaning they are vulnerable to climate-change-induced aridification. Most passive satellite sensors are unsuitable for continuous wetland monitoring due to cloud cover and their relatively low temporal resolution. However, active satellite sensors such as the C-band synthetic aperture radar of Sentinel-1 satellites offer free, cloud-independent data. We examined surface water cover changes from October 2014 to November 2018 in the strictly protected area (13,000 ha) of the Upper-Kiskunság Alkaline Lakes region in the Danube–Tisza Interfluve in Hungary, with the aim of helping with nature protection planning. Changes and sensitivity can be defined based on the knowledge of variability. We developed a method for water cover detection based on automatic classification, applying the so-called WEKA K-Means clustering algorithm. For satellite data processing and analysis, we used the Google Earth Engine cloud processing platform. In terms of validation, we compared our results with the multispectral Modified Normalized Difference Water Index (MNDWI) derived from Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2 top-of-atmosphere reflectance images using a threshold-based binary classifier (receiver operator characteristics) for the MNDWI data. Using two completely distinct methods operating in distinct wavelength ranges, we obtained adequately matching results, with Spearman’s correlation coefficients (ρ) ranging from 0.54 to 0.80.
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