Near-field Oblique Remote Sensing of Stream Water-surface Elevation, Slope, and Surface Velocity

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:40 AM
J. Toby Minear1, Paul J Kinzel2, Jonathan M Nelson2, Richard McDonald2 and Scott A Wright1, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, Sacramento, CA, United States, (2)USGS, Golden, CO, United States
A major challenge for estimating discharges during flood events or in steep channels is the difficulty and hazard inherent in obtaining in-stream measurements. One possible solution is to use near-field remote sensing to obtain simultaneous water-surface elevations, slope, and surface velocities. In this test case, we utilized Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) to remotely measure water-surface elevations and slope in combination with surface velocities estimated from particle image velocimetry (PIV) obtained by video-camera and/or infrared camera. We tested this method at several sites in New Mexico and Colorado using independent validation data consisting of in-channel measurements from survey-grade GPS and Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) instruments. Preliminary results indicate that for relatively turbid or steep streams, TLS collects tens of thousands of water-surface elevations and slopes in minutes, much faster than conventional means and at relatively high precision, at least as good as continuous survey-grade GPS measurements. Estimated surface velocities from this technique are within 15% of measured velocity magnitudes and within 10 degrees from the measured velocity direction (using extrapolation from the shallowest bin of the ADCP measurements). Accurately aligning the PIV results into Cartesian coordinates appears to be one of the main sources of error, primarily due to the sensitivity at these shallow oblique look angles and the low numbers of stationary objects for rectification. Combining remotely-sensed water-surface elevations, slope, and surface velocities produces simultaneous velocity measurements from a large number of locations in the channel and is more spatially extensive than traditional velocity measurements. These factors make this technique useful for improving estimates of flow measurements during flood flows and in steep channels while also decreasing the difficulty and hazard associated with making measurements in these conditions.