Use of satellite info is more than remotely sensible

Posted on September 22, 2010


River flow monitoring and flood prediction typically rely on measurements of channel shape and   data collected from in-stream water level gauges.  However, because gauging data are unavailable for many river basins, there is interest in exploring ways in which remote sensing information might help to provide a cost-effective alternative to ground-based observations.  A promising approach involves combining information from spaceborne radar and terrain mapping systems with outputs from hydrological and hydrodynamic models.  A study focusing on a 10-km reach of the River Alzette inLuxembourgfound that this method produced water level and flow estimates consistent with independent ground-based data.  The use of spaceborne radar to measure water levels reduced the uncertainty (standard deviation)  in flow rate simulations by 79%, from 21.1 to 4.4 cubic metres per second.  As long as good topographic data are available, this technique can improve discharge predictions for ungauged basins.

Reference:  Neal, J., Schumann, G., Bates, P., Buytaert, W., Matgen, P.  & Pappenberger, F.  2009.  A data assimilation approach to discharge estimation from space.   Hydrological  Processes 23, 3641–3649.

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Posted in: hydrology, water flow