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River Discharge Estimation by Using Altimetry Data and Simplified Flood Routing Modeling

Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Publication Date
  • Altimetry Data
  • Remote Sensing
  • River Discharge
  • Rating Curve Model
  • Po River


A methodology to estimate the discharge along rivers, even poorly gauged ones, taking advantage of water level measurements derived from satellite altimetry is proposed. The procedure is based on the application of the Rating Curve Model (RCM), a simple method allowing for the estimation of the flow conditions in a river section using only water levels recorded at that site and the discharges observed at another upstream section. The European Remote-Sensing Satellite 2, ERS-2, and the Environmental Satellite, ENVISAT, altimetry data are used to provide time series of water levels needed for the application of RCM. In order to evaluate the usefulness of the approach, the results are compared with the ones obtained by applying an empirical formula that allows discharge estimation from remotely sensed hydraulic information. To test the proposed procedure, the 236 km-reach of the Po River is investigated, for which five in situ stations and four satellite tracks are available. Results show that RCM is able to appropriately represent the discharge, and its performance is better than the empirical formula, although this latter does not require upstream hydrometric data. Given its simple formal structure, the proposed approach can be conveniently utilized in ungauged sites where only the survey of the cross-section is needed.

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