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Estimating River Depth from SWOT-Type Observables Obtained by Satellite Altimetry and Imagery

Institute of Geodesy, University of Stuttgart, 70174 Stuttgart, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2017, 9(10), 753;
Received: 14 April 2017 / Revised: 8 September 2017 / Accepted: 26 September 2017 / Published: 30 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Hydro-Meteorological Monitoring)
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The proposed Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission aims to improve spaceborne estimates of river discharge through its measurements of water surface elevation, river width and slope. SWOT, however, will not observe baseflow depth, which limits its value in estimating river discharge especially for those rivers with heterogeneous channel geometry. In this study, we aim to obtain river depths from spaceborne observations together with in situ data of river discharge. We first obtain SWOT-like observables from current satellite techniques. We obtain river water level and slope time series from multi-mission altimetry and effective river width from satellite imagery (MODIS). We then employ a Gauss–Helmert adjustment model to estimate average river depth for 16 defined reaches along the Po River in Italy, for which we use our spaceborne observations in two recognized models for discharge estimation. The average river depth estimates along the Po River are validated against surveyed cross-section information, which shows a generally good agreement in the range of ∼10% relative root mean squared error. Furthermore, we analyzed the sensitivity of error in the estimated river depth to errors of individual parameters. We show that the estimated river depth is less influenced by errors of river width and river discharge, while it is strongly influenced by errors in water level. This result gives a perspective to the SWOT mission to infer river depth by coarse estimates of river width and discharge. View Full-Text
Keywords: river discharge; satellite altimetry; satellite imagery river discharge; satellite altimetry; satellite imagery

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Tourian, M.J.; Elmi, O.; Mohammadnejad, A.; Sneeuw, N. Estimating River Depth from SWOT-Type Observables Obtained by Satellite Altimetry and Imagery. Water 2017, 9, 753.

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