Extending global river gauge records using satellite observations


Long-term, continuous, and real-time streamflow records are essential for understanding and managing freshwater resources. However, we find that 37% of publicly available global gauge records (N = 45 837) are discontinuous and 77% of gauge records do not contain real-time data. Historical periods of social upheaval are associated with declines in gauge data availability. Using river width observations from Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites, we fill in missing records at 2168 gauge locations worldwide with more than 275 000 daily discharge estimates. This task is accomplished with a river width-based rating curve technique that optimizes measurement location and rating function (median relative bias = 1.4%, median Kling-Gupta efficiency = 0.46). The rating curves presented here can be used to generate near real-time discharge measurements as new satellite images are acquired, improving our capabilities for monitoring and managing river resources.



river discharge, river gauge, remote sensing of discharge, rating curve, Landsat, Sentinel-2