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Tarpanelli, A; Brocca, L; Lacava, T; Melone, F; Moramarco, T; Faruolo, M; Pergola, N; Tramutoli, V (2013). Toward the estimation of river discharge variations using MODIS data in ungauged basins. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 136, 47-55.

This study investigates the capability of the Moderate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to estimate river discharge, even for ungauged sites. Because of its frequent revisits (as little as every 3 h) and adequate spatial resolution (250 m), MODIS bands 1 and 2 have significant potential for mapping the extent of flooded areas and estimating river discharge even for medium-sized basins. Specifically, the different behaviour of water and land in the Near Infrared (NIR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is exploited by computing the ratio (C/M) of the MODIS channel 2 reflectance values between two pixels located within (M) and outside (C), but close to, the river. The values of C/M increase with the presence of water and, hence, with discharge. Moreover, in order to reduce the noise effects due to atmospheric contribution, an exponential smoothing filter is applied, thus obtaining C/M-*. Time series of hourly mean flow velocity and discharge between 2005 and 2011 measured at four gauging stations located along the Po river (Northern Italy) are employed for testing the capability of C/M* to estimate discharge/flow velocity. Specifically, the meanders and urban areas are considered the best locations for the position of the pixels M and C, respectively. Considering the optimal pixels, the agreement between C/M-* and discharge/flow velocity is fairly good with values in the range of 0.65-0.77. Additionally, the application to ungauged sites is tested by deriving a unique regional relationship between C/M-* and flow velocity valid for the whole Po river and providing only a slight deterioration of the performance. Finally, the sensitivity of the results to the selection of the C and M pixels is investigated by randomly changing their location. Also in this case, the agreement with in situ observations of velocity is fairly satisfactory (r similar to 0.6). The obtained results demonstrate the capability of MODIS to monitor discharge (and flow velocity). Therefore, its application for a larger number of sites worldwide will be the object of future studies. (C) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



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