Current Projects

NASA SWOT Science Team: NNX16AH82G and NNX16AQ31G

“Development and comprehensive validation of SWOT river discharge algorithms from AirSWOT, simulator, and field measurements.” Together with Prof Colin Gleason (U Mass), we are developing the algorithms that will compute river discharge from the upcoming SWOT satellite mission (link). We are testing algorithms using a range of datasets, and defining how accurate SWOT river discharge is likely to be. PI: Durand.

We are also working to understand the ways that lateral inflows along river contribute to river discharge error for SWOT, on a project at Northeastern University. PI: Ed Beighley.

Given the dearth of global data and declining global stream gage network, remote sensing of river discharge could provide hydrological information globally — if algorithms such as these can be made to provide accurate discharge. SWOT launches in 2021!


“Development of pre-SWOT ESDRs for global surface water storage dynamics”. This project will create surface water Earth Science Data Records of surface water altimetry over the world’s large rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. CK Shum (SES) is a Co-PI. Durand is the lead Co-PI at Ohio State, where we have computed a new dataset of river elevation timeseries (link), and are exploring how these can best be used to infer volumetric storage changes within rivers.

NASA Terrestrial Hydrology 80NSSC17K0200

“Characterizing accuracy of an advanced snow water equivalent retrieval algorithm applied to airborne microwave remote sensing measurements”. We are testing algorithms for estimating snow water equivalent from radar backscatter observations. This work would lay the way for a future NASA satellite to map snow across the planet, something that is very much needed to understand water resources and climate change (link).

NASA Earth System Science Fellowship

“Utilizing Flood Inundation Observations to Obtain Floodplain Topography in Data-Scarce Regions for Use in a Hydrodynamic Model”. This fellowship was awarded to Apoorva Shastry. The project goal is to infer floodplain elevations from a combination of hydraulic modeling and measurements of flooded elevation. If successful, the project would lay the groundwork for estimating floodplain elevations globally from existing datasets, an urgent scientific and societal need (link).

NASA Terrestrial Hydrology 80NSSC18K1497

“Estimating Arctic river discharge from ArcticDEM”. We are working on methods to compute river discharge for rivers with multiple channels. About 1/4 rivers north of 60° that are greater than 100 m in width have multiple channels. Computing discharge from these using SWOT is thus important and also very difficult. We are developing SWOT-like datasets using ArcticDEM (link) and testing river discharge algorithms on these data, to ultimately improve Arctic river discharge estimates during the SWOT mission.

NASA JPL Algorithm Definition Team

“Hydrology Activities for Rivers”. We are documenting and characterizing how river data products will look from SWOT. This is important, as SWOT is fundamentally different than many of the types of data that hydrologists have worked with in the past. See the example data product on the Sacramento River (link) as a sample of this type of work. SWOT launches in 2021!