Discharge estimation and forecasting by MODIS and altimetry data in Niger-Benue River

Tarpanelli, Angelica; Amarnath, Giriraj; Brocca, Luca; Massari, Christian; Moramarco, Tommaso, 2017, Discharge estimation and forecasting by MODIS and altimetry data in Niger-Benue River, Remote sensing of environment 195 (2017): 96–106. doi_10.1016/j.rse.2017.04.015,
URL: http://www.cnr.it/prodotto/i/374680

Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards in the world and its forecast is essential in flood risk reduction and disaster response decision. The lack of adequate monitoring networks, especially in developing countries prevents near real-time flood prediction that could help to reduce the loss of lives and economic damages. In the last few years, increasing availability of multi-satellite sensors induced to develop new techniques for retrieving river discharge and especially in supporting discharge nowcasting and forecasting activities. Recently, the potential of radar altimetry to estimate water levels and discharge in ungauged river sites with good accuracy has been demonstrated. However, the considerable benefit derived from this technique is attenuated by the low revisit time of the satellite (10 or 35 days, depending on the satellite mission) causing delays on the predicting operations. For this reason, sensors with a higher temporal resolution such as the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), working in visible/Infra-Red bands, can support flood forecasting. In this study, we performed the forecast of river discharge by using MODIS and we compared it with the radar altimetry and in-situ data along the Niger-Benue River in Nigeria to develop an operational flood forecasting scheme that could help in rapid emergency response and decision making processes. In the first step, four MODIS products (daily and, 8-day from the TERRA and AQUA satellites) at two gauged sites were used for discharge estimation. Secondly, the capability of remote sensing sensors to forecast discharge a few days (~ 4 days) in advance at a downstream section using MODIS is analyzed and also compared with the one obtained by the use of radar altimetry by ENVISAT and Jason-2. The results confirmed the capability of the MODIS data to estimate river discharge with performance indices > 0.97 and 0.95 in terms of coefficient of correlation and Nash Sutcliffe efficiency. In particular, RMSE does not exceed 1300 m3/s and the fractional RMSE ranges between 0.15 and 0.23. For the forecasting exercise, both altimetry and MODIS provide satisfactory results with positive coefficient of persistence considering 4 days of lead time (> 0.34). Although altimetry was found to be more accurate in the forecasting of river discharge (RMSE ~ 350 m3/s), the much higher temporal resolution of MODIS guarantees a continuity that is more suitable to address operational activities.

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