The Application of Satellite Laser Altimetry: The Determination of Lake Stage, and River Elevation, Slope and Discharge
Birkett, C.1; Hofton, M1; Dubayah, R1; Bkjerklie, D2
1University of Maryland; 2USGS

Satellite radar altimetry dominates the current field of estimating surface elevation for lakes and rivers. The resulting stage products are used in a variety of science and operational projects, but while there are advantages to this technique there are also limitations. While research groups focus on future enhanced instruments, there is also the need to fully explore the potential of laser altimetry.

Here, we focus on GLAS data from the currently operating ICESat mission. Although observations are restricted temporally and spatially due to short laser operating lifetimes, there is the opportunity to explore the acquired elevation data during itís 33day repeat phase. Preliminary results of this new project are given here for a number of lakes and the Missouri River. Stage accuracies are determined for varying target surface roughness and size. The ability to determine river gradient across a defined length of river reach is examined and the potential for volume flow rate (discharge) determination explored. Minimum target size and overall quantity of valid elevation retrievals in view of cloud interference are also presented. The merits of using laser versus radar, and the science contributions of combining both data sets, are also discussed. This project supports several NASA strategic objectives including the exploitation of new technology, the promotion of remote sensing techniques and the improved understanding of river basin hydrology. It also extends the original science goals of the ICESat mission. to a number of other interdisciplinary projects pertaining to water resources, natural hazards and climate change.


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