Hydraulic River Models From ICESat-2 Elevation and Water Surface Slope

Aske Folkmann Musaeus*, Cécile Marie Margaretha Kittel, Jakob Luchner, Monica Coppo Frias, Peter Bauer-Gottwein

*Corresponding author for this work

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Forecasting flood and drought events requires accurate modeling tools. Hydraulic river models are based on estimates of riverbed geometry which are traditionally collected in situ. The novel Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite 2 [ICESat-2] lidar altimetry mission with 6 simultaneous high-resolution laser beams provides the opportunity to define river cross-section geometries as well as observe water surface elevation [WSE] and water surface slope spatially resolved along the river chainage. This paper describes a method to utilize terrain altimetry and water surface slope estimates to define complete river geometries from ICESat-2 data products, using the diffusive wave approximation to calculate depth in the submerged section not penetrated by the lidar. Exemplifying the method, cross-sections are defined for a stretch of the Mekong River. Hydrodynamic model results of the stretch are compared with ICESat-2 WSE estimates and in situ gauging station time series. Insights in river characteristics from satellite imagery and the ICESat-2 slope estimates allow for fine-tuning of the cross-sections using spatially varying Manning numbers. The final model achieves a root mean square error against the ICESat-2 WSE of 0.676 m and average Kling-Gupta Efficiency against gauging station time series of 0.880. The method is limited by the diffusive wave approximation resulting in inaccurate cross-section estimates in sections with supercritical flow or significant acceleration. Errors can be identified from ICESat-2 WSE estimates and reduced with additional cross-sections. Combined with hydrological models, the method will allow for cross-section definition without in situ data.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023WR036428
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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