Monitoring the variation of rivers and lakes is of great importance. Satellite radar altimetry is a promising technology to do this on a regional to global scale. Satellite radar altimetry data has been used successfully to observe water levels in lakes and (large) rivers, and has also been combined with hydrologic/hydrodynamic models. Except CryoSat-2, all radar altimetry missions have been operated in conventional low resolution mode with a short repeat orbit (35 days or less). CryoSat-2, carrying a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) altimeter, has a 369-day repeat and a drifting ground track pattern and provides new opportunities for hydrologic research. The narrow inter-track distance (7.5 km at the equator) makes it possible to monitor many lakes and rivers and SAR mode provides a finer along-track resolution, higher return power and speckle reduction through multi-looks. However, CryoSat-2 challenges conventional ways of dealing with satellite inland water altimetry data because virtual station time series cannot be directly derived for rivers. We review the CryoSat-2 mission characteristics, data products, and its use and perspectives for inland water applications. We discuss all the important steps in the workflow for hydrologic analysis with CryoSat-2, and conclude with a discussion of promising future research directions.
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