Upstream Remotely-Sensed Hydrological Variables and Their Standardization for Surface Runoff Reconstruction and Estimation of the Entire Mekong River Basin
River water discharge (WD) is an essential component when monitoring a regional hydrological cycle. It is expressed in terms of surface runoff (R) when a unit of river basin surface area is considered. To compensate for the decreasing number of hydrological stations, remotely-sensed WD estimation has been widely promoted over the past two decades, due to its global coverage. Previously, remotely-sensed WD was reconstructed either by correlating nearby remotely-sensed surface responses (e.g.,
... responses (e.g., indices and hydraulic variables) with ground-based WD observations or by applying water balance formulations, in terms of R, over an entire river basin, assisted by hydrological modeling data. In contrast, the feasibility of using remotely-sensed hydrological variables (RSHVs) and their standardized forms together with water balance representations (WBR) obtained from the river upstream to reconstruct estuarine R for an entire basin, has been rarely investigated. Therefore, our study aimed to construct a correlative relationship between the estuarine observed R and the upstream, spatially averaged RSHVs, together with their standardized forms and WBR, for the Mekong River basin, using estuarine R reconstructions, at a monthly temporal scale. We found that the reconstructed R derived from the upstream, spatially averaged RSHVs agreed well with the observed R, which was also comparable to that calculated using traditional remote sensing data (RSD). Better performance was achieved using spatially averaged, standardized RSHVs, which should be potentially attributable to spatially integrated information and the ability to partly bypass systematic biases by both human (e.g., dam operation) and environmental effects in a standardized form. Comparison of the R reconstructed using the upstream, spatially averaged, standardized RSHVs with that reconstructed from the traditional RSD, against the observed R, revealed a Pearson correlation coefficient (PCC) above 0.91 and below 0.81, a root-mean-squares error (RMSE) below 6.1 mm and above 8.5 mm, and a Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency coefficient (NSE) above 0.823 and below 0.657, respectively. In terms of the standardized water balance representation (SWBR), the reconstructed R yielded the best performance, with a PCC above 0.92, an RMSE below 5.9 mm, and an NSE above 0.838. External assessment demonstrated similar results. This finding indicated that the standardized RSHVs, in particular its water balance representations, could lead to further improvement in estuarine R reconstructions for river basins affected by various systematic influences. Comparison between hydrological stations at the Mekong River Delta entrance and near the estuary mouth revealed tidally-induced backwater effects on the estimated R, with an RMSE difference of 4–5 mm (equivalent to 9–11% relative error).