Airborne Imaging in the Yukon River Basin to Characterize SWOT Mission Phenomenology
Abstract:Remote sensing offers intriguing tools to track Arctic hydrology, but current techniques are largely limited to tracking either inundation or water surface elevation only. For the first time, the proposed Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission will provide regular, simultaneous observations of inundation extent and water level from space. SWOT is unique and distinct from precursor altimetry missions in some notable regards: 1) 100km+ of swath will provide complete ocean coverage, 2) in addition to the ocean product, land surface water will be mapped for storage measurement and discharge estimation and 3) Ka-band single-pass interferometry will produce the height measurements introducing a new measurement technique. This new approach introduces additional algorithmic, characterization and calibration/validation needs for which the Ka-band SWOT Phenomenology Airborne Radar (KaSPAR) was developed. In May 2015, AirSWOT (comprised of KaSPAR and a color infrared (CIR) high resolution aerial camera) was part of an intensive field campaign including observations of inundation extent and water level and in situ hydrologic measurements in two rivers and 20 lakes within the Yukon River Basin, Alaska.
One goal is to explore the fundamental phenomenology of the SWOT measurement. This includes assessment of the effects of vegetation layover and attenuation, wind roughening and classification. Further KaSPAR-derived inundation extent will to be validated using a combination of ground surveys and coregistered CIR imagery. Ultimately, by combining measurements of changing inundation extent and water level between two collection dates, it will be possible to validate lake water storage variations against storage changes computed from in situ water levels and inundation area derived from AirSWOT. Our paper summarizes the campaign, the airborne and in situ measurements and presents some initial KaSPAR and CIR imagery from the Yukon flats region.