Potential and Limitations of Satellite Altimetry Constellations for Monitoring Surface Water Storage Changes—A Case Study in the Mississippi Basin

Denise Dettmering, Laura Ellenbeck, Daniel Scherer, Christian Schwatke, Christoph Niemann
2020 Remote Sensing  
Remote sensing data are essential for monitoring the Earth's surface waters, especially since the amount of publicly available in-situ data is declining. Satellite altimetry provides valuable information on the water levels and variations of lakes, reservoirs and rivers. In combination with satellite imagery, the derived time series allow the monitoring of lake storage changes and river discharge. However, satellite altimetry is limited in terms of its spatial resolution due to its measurement
more » ... eometry, only providing information in the nadir direction beneath the satellite's orbit. In a case study in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB), this study investigates the potential and limitations of past and current satellite missions for the monitoring of basin-wide storage changes. For that purpose, an automated target detection is developed and the extracted lake surfaces are merged with the satellites' tracks. This reveals that the current altimeter configuration misses about 80% of all lakes larger than 0.1 km2 in the MRB and 20% of lakes larger than 10 km2, corresponding to 30% and 7% of the total water area, respectively. Past altimetry configurations perform even more poorly. From the larger water bodies represented by a global hydrology model, at least 91% of targets and 98% of storage changes are captured by the current altimeter configuration. This will improve significantly with the launch of the planned Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission.
doi:10.3390/rs12203320 fatcat:rjgwn3cqfrhtraqxlgkwxeplwi