Analysis of global river width distribution and provision of core knowledge for the SWOT satellite mission

Related Research Areas
Water & Energy Cycles
Project Description
Rivers are key links in the global hydrologic cycle, are important networks for biogeochemistry and ecology, and are vital resources for human civilization. Despite these facts, truly global understanding of patterns in river flow and morphology remain limited because ground-based datasets are difficult or impossible to collect. Remote sensing offers an intriguing pathway to improved understanding of spatial variations in river form, but no global, high-resolution study has yet been undertaken. In this study we are developing and analyzing a global dataset of all rivers wider than 100 m (and as many rivers as possible wider than 50 m) from a Landsat mosaic. Widths are measured using the RivWidth software package designed by the PI to extract continuous width measurements from satellite-derived water masks. Once this global dataset has been developed, we will link it to other global datasets such as the Hydrosheds digital hydrography product in order to better understand global controls on river form. In addition, we anticipate that the dataset will be useful for the wide range of hydrologists, biogeochemists, and geomorphologists who currently use statistical methods to estimate widths over broad areas. Finally, the dataset will provide information critical to the NASA/CNES SWOT satellite mission by indicating which rivers will be observable based on expected width thresholds between 50 m and 100 m.
Project Administrator(s):
George Allen


George Allen