Applying WOfS Bitmasking eb5a7fe163734c78baadf04e709a5f03


The Water Observations from Space (WOfS) product shows water observed for every Landsat-5, Landsat-7 and Landsat-8 image across Australia (excluding External Territories) for the period of 1986 to present.

Individual water classified images are called Water Observation Feature Layers (WOFLs), and are created in a 1-to-1 relationship with the input satellite data. Hence there is one WOFL for each satellite dataset processed for the occurrence of water.


This notebook explains both the structure of the WOFLs, and how you can use this for powerful and flexible image masking.

The data in a WOFL is stored as a bit field. This is a binary number, where each digit of the number is independantly set or not based on the presence (1) or absence (0) of a particular attribute (water, cloud, cloud shadow etc). In this way, the single decimal value associated to each pixel can provide information on a variety of features of that pixel.

The notebook demonstrates how to:

  1. Load WOFL data for a given location and time period

  2. Inspect the WOLF bit flag information

  3. Use the WOFL bit flags to create a binary mask

  4. Apply WOFL-based masks to different datasets

Getting started

To run this analysis, run all the cells in the notebook, starting with the “Load packages” cell.

After finishing the analysis, you can modify some values in the “Analysis parameters” cell and re-run the analysis to load WOFLs for a different location or time period.

Load packages

%matplotlib inline

import datacube
from import masking
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import sys

from dea_plotting import display_map
from dea_datahandling import wofs_fuser

Connect to the datacube

dc = datacube.Datacube(app="Applying_WOfS_bitmasking")

Analysis parameters

# Define your area of interest
x = (153.18, 153.38)
y = (-29.35, -29.55)

# Define your period of interest
time = ("2018-01-01", "2018-01-20")

View the selected location

display_map(x=x, y=y)

Load WOFL data

To load WOFL data, we can first create a re-usable query that will define the spatial extent and time period we are interested in, as well as other important parameters that are used to correctly load the data.

As WOFLs are created scene-by-scene, and some scenes overlap, it’s important when loading data to group_by solar day, and ensure that the data between scenes is combined correctly by using the WOfS fuse_func. This will merge observations taken on the same day, and ensure that important data isn’t lost when overlapping datasets are combined.

# Create a reusable query
query = {
    "x": x,
    "y": y,
    "time": time,
    "output_crs": "EPSG:3577",
    "resolution": (-25, 25),
    "group_by": "solar_day",
    "fuse_func": wofs_fuser,
# Load the data from the datacube
wofls = dc.load(product="wofs_albers", **query)
# Plot the loaded WOFLs
wofls.water.plot(col="time", col_wrap=3)
# Select one image of interest (`time=0` selects the first observation)
wofl = wofls.isel(time=0)

Understanding the WOFLs

As mentioned above, WOFLs are stored as a binary number, where each digit of the number is independantly set or not based on the presence (1) or absence (0) of a particular feature. Below is a breakdown of which bits represent which features, along with the decimal value associated with that bit being set to true.


Bit / position

Decimal value

No data

0: 0------- or 1-------


Non contiguous

1: -0------ or -1------



2: --0----- or --1-----


Terrain or low solar angle

3: ---0---- or ---1----


High slope

4: ----0--- or ----1---


Cloud shadow

5: -----0-- or -----1--



6: ------0- or ------1-



7: -------0 or -------1


The values in the above plots are the decimal representation of the combination of set flags. For example a value of 136 indicates water (128) AND terrain shadow / low solar angle (8) were observed for the pixel, whereas a value of 144 would indicate water (128) AND high slope (16).

This flag information is available inside the loaded data and can be visualised as below

# Display details of available flags
flags = masking.describe_variable_flags(wofls)
flags["bits"] = flags["bits"].astype(str)
bits values description
nodata 0 {'1': True} No data
noncontiguous 1 {'0': False, '1': True} At least one EO band is missing over over/unde...
sea 2 {'0': False, '1': True} Sea
terrain_or_low_angle 3 {'0': False, '1': True} Terrain shadow or low solar angle
high_slope 4 {'0': False, '1': True} High slope
cloud_shadow 5 {'0': False, '1': True} Cloud shadow
cloud 6 {'0': False, '1': True} Cloudy
water_observed 7 {'0': False, '1': True} Classified as water by the decision tree
dry [7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1, 0] {'0': True} Clear and dry
wet [7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 1, 0] {'128': True} Clear and Wet
# Show areas flagged as water only (with no other flags set)
(wofl.water == 128).plot.imshow()


We can convert the WOFL bit field into a binary array containing True and False values. This allows us to use the WOFL data as a mask that can be applied to other datasets.

The make_mask function allows us to create a mask using the flag labels (e.g. “wet” or “dry”) rather than the binary numbers we used above.

# Create a mask based on all 'wet' pixels
wetwofl = masking.make_mask(wofl, wet=True)

NOTE: As you can see there is a difference between the above two plots. The first (where water == 128) is looking at pixels where ONLY the water observation flag was set. For coastal areas the ‘sea’ bit is also flagged. The second image (using wet=True), also looks at pixels where the water observation flag was set.

Load something to mask

In the following example, we demonstrate how WOFS can be used as a mask to remove certain features (e.g. water) from another dataset.

We will apply the mask to the ‘Fractional Cover’ (FC) dataset. This dataset estimates the percentage of photosythetic vegetation, non-photosythetic vegetation and bare soil within each satellite pixel, but gives inaccurate values in pixels that contain water. We can use WOFL data to remove these potentially inaccurate pixels from the FC dataset.

In the next cell, we load fractional cover for the same extents as the WOFL data by using the like argument. For more details about this, see the introduction to loading data.

# Load a fractional cover (FC) tile to match the WOFLs data by using 'like'
fc = dc.load(product="ls8_fc_albers", group_by="solar_day", like=wofls)
fc1 = fc.isel(time=0)
# Visualise the loaded tile
fc1.PV.plot.imshow(cmap="gist_earth_r", figsize=(8, 6))

Mask water from FC with WOfS

Using the mask created above we can mask water from the FC image

masked = fc1.where(wetwofl.water == False)

Mask more things!

Flags can be combined. When chaining flags together, they will be combined in a logical AND fashion.

# Removing clouds and their shadows
clear = {"cloud_shadow": False, "cloud": False}

cloudfree = masking.make_mask(wofl, **clear)
cloudfree_fc = fc1.where(cloudfree.water == True)

Or, to look at only the clear areas which are good quality data and not wet, we can use the ‘dry’ flag.

# FC where it's clear and dry
good_data_mask = masking.make_mask(wofl, dry=True)
good_fc = fc1.where(good_data_mask.water == True)

Additional information

License: The code in this notebook is licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0. Digital Earth Australia data is licensed under the Creative Commons by Attribution 4.0 license.

Contact: If you need assistance, please post a question on the Open Data Cube Slack channel or on the GIS Stack Exchange using the open-data-cube tag (you can view previously asked questions here). If you would like to report an issue with this notebook, you can file one on Github.

Last modified: December 2019

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Tags: sandbox compatible, NCI compatible, WOfS, fractional cover, dea_plotting, dea_datahandling, display_map, wofs_fuser, WOFL, masking