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Publication - Professor Paul Bates

    AirSWOT measurements of river water surface elevation and slope

    Tanana River, AK


    Altenau, EH, Pavelsky, TM, Moller, D, Lion, C, Pitcher, LH, Allen, GH, Bates, PD, Calmant, S, Durand, M & Smith, LC, 2017, ‘AirSWOT measurements of river water surface elevation and slope: Tanana River, AK’. Geophysical Research Letters, vol 44., pp. 181-189


    Fluctuations in water surface elevation (WSE) along rivers have important implications for water resources, flood hazards, and biogeochemical cycling. However, current in situ and remote sensing methods exhibit key limitations in characterizing spatiotemporal hydraulics of many of the world's river systems. Here, we analyze new measurements of river WSE and slope from AirSWOT, an airborne analogue to the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission aimed at addressing limitations in current remotely sensed observations of surface water. To evaluate its capabilities, we compare AirSWOT WSEs and slopes to in situ measurements along the Tanana River, Alaska. RMSE is 9.0 cm for WSEs averaged over 1 km2 areas and 1.0 cm/km for slopes along 10 km reaches. Results indicate that AirSWOT can accurately reproduce the spatial variations in slope critical for characterizing reach-scale hydraulics. AirSWOT's high-precision measurements are valuable for hydrologic analysis, flood modeling studies, and for validating future SWOT measurements.

    Full details in the University publications repository