High-resolution satellite mapping and gauging for rivers and lakes in the boreal-Arctic

Project Summary:

River and lake systems in the boreal-Arctic are characterized by a long winter frozen season and persistent seasonal ice cover that begins to break-up with onset of warmer temperatures and snowmelt driven runoff in spring. However, watershed seasonality is changing as a result of regional warming that is occurring at roughly twice the global rate. Resulting changes to the regional hydrology include earlier spring ice breakup and flooding, and changing freshwater discharge to the Arctic Ocean, which are impacting Arctic ecosystems and ocean circulation, the availability of freshwater resources, and the health and safety of regional communities. The behavior and regional impact of these systems in relation to the larger basin dynamics are unknown because they are currently below the effective detection threshold of current global satellite observations, basin scale modeling, and sparse in-situ monitoring networks.

We are using meter and sub-meter scale imagery to measure non-binary ice conditions for rivers and lakes in selected catchments spanning regional environmental gradients. We are also employing consecutive acquisitions from the PlanetScope constellation, SkySat stereo image pairs and motion video for estimating river/lake surface height changes, river flow velocity and river discharge.  Our collection and analysis of fine-scale ice and flow dynamics will enable improved assessments of smaller water bodies that provide key freshwater habitats and conduits for water and materials transport in coastal basins.