Lake levels based on CryoSat-2 SAR radar altimetry

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Heidi Villadsen1, Karina Nielsen2, Lars Stenseng2, Ole Baltazar Andersen3 and Per Knudsen3, (1)DTU Space, National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark, (2)DTU Space, Lyngby, Denmark, (3)Technical University of Denmark - Space, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
CryoSat-2 is the satellite that carries a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) altimeter on-board. The SAR technology provides an along-track resolution of approximately 300 m. The higher resolution makes it possible to accurately monitor much smaller water bodies than previously. In this study, which is part of the FP7 project Land and Ocean take up from Sentinel-3 (LOTUS), we investigate the potential of SAR altimetry. To derive lake levels we use novel empirical threshold retrackers and the physical SAMOSA retracker. We consider lakes at various sizes and evaluate the CryoSat-2 derived lake levels in terms of along-track precision and agreement with in-situ data. We find that the precision of the along-track mean water level is a few cm, even for lakes with a surface area of just 9 km^2. The high precision makes it possible to detect water level variations below the decimeter level. To derive lake level time series we apply a state-space model with a robust handling of erroneous data. Instead of attempting to identify and remove the polluted observations we use a mixture distribution to describe the observation noise, which prevents the polluted observations from biasing our final reconstructed time series.

These results demonstrate the promising possibilities of the upcoming Sentinel-3 mission, which potentially will be able to provide accurate time series for small lakes.