Monitoring Large-Scale Inland Water Dynamics by Fusing Sentinel-1 SAR and Sentinel-3 Altimetry Data and by Analyzing Causal Effects of Snowmelt

The warming climate is threatening to alter inland water resources on a global scale. Within all waterbody types, lake and river systems are vital not only for natural ecosystems but, also, for human society. Snowmelt phenology is also altered by global warming, and snowmelt is the primary water supply source for many river and lake systems around the globe. Hence, (1) monitoring snowmelt conditions, (2) tracking the dynamics of snowmelt-influenced river and lake systems, and (3) quantifying the causal effect of snowmelt conditions on these waterbodies are critical to understand the cryo-hydrosphere interactions under climate change. Previous studies utilized in-situ or multispectral sensors to track either the surface areas or water levels of waterbodies, which are constrained to small-scale regions and limited by cloud cover, respectively. On the contrary, in the present study, we employed the latest Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and Sentinel-3 altimetry data to grant a high-resolution, cloud-free, and illumination-independent comprehensive inland water dynamics monitoring strategy. Moreover, in contrast to previous studies utilizing in-house algorithms, we employed freely available cloud-based services to ensure a broad applicability with high efficiency. Based on altimetry and SAR data, the water level and the water-covered extent (WCE) (surface area of lakes and the flooded area of rivers) can be successfully measured. Furthermore, by fusing the water level and surface area information, for Lake Urmia, we can estimate the hypsometry and derive the water volume change. Additionally, for the Brahmaputra River, the variations of both the water level and the flooded area can be tracked. Last, but not least, together with the wet snow cover extent (WSCE) mapped with SAR imagery, we can analyze the influence of snowmelt conditions on water resource variations. The distributed lag model (DLM) initially developed in the econometrics discipline was employed, and the lagged causal effect of snowmelt conditions on inland water resources was eventually assessed.


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