Articles | Volume 18, issue 5
Research article
27 May 2014
Research article |  | 27 May 2014

Combining high-resolution satellite images and altimetry to estimate the volume of small lakes

F. Baup, F. Frappart, and J. Maubant

Abstract. This study presents an approach to determining the volume of water in small lakes (<100 ha) by combining satellite altimetry data and high-resolution (HR) images. In spite of the strong interest in monitoring surface water resources on a small scale using radar altimetry and satellite imagery, no information is available about the limits of the remote-sensing technologies for small lakes mainly used for irrigation purposes. The lake being studied is located in the south-west of France and is only used for agricultural irrigation purposes. The altimetry satellite data are provided by an RA-2 sensor onboard Envisat, and the high-resolution images (<10 m) are obtained from optical (Formosat-2) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) antenna (Terrasar-X and Radarsat-2) satellites. The altimetry data (data are obtained every 35 days) and the HR images (77) have been available since 2003 and 2010, respectively. In situ data (for the water levels and volumes) going back to 2003 have been provided by the manager of the lake. Three independent approaches are developed to estimate the lake volume and its temporal variability. The first two approaches (HRBV and ABV) are empirical and use synchronous ground measurements of the water volume and the satellite data. The results demonstrate that altimetry and imagery can be effectively and accurately used to monitor the temporal variations of the lake (R2ABV = 0.98, RMSEABV = 5%, R2HRBV = 0.90, and RMSEABV = 7.4%), assuming a time-varying triangular shape for the shore slope of the lake (this form is well adapted since it implies a difference inferior to 2% between the theoretical volume of the lake and the one estimated from bathymetry). The third method (AHRBVC) combines altimetry (to measure the lake level) and satellite images (of the lake surface) to estimate the volume changes of the lake and produces the best results (R2AHRBVC = 0.98) of the three methods, demonstrating the potential of future Sentinel and SWOT missions to monitor small lakes and reservoirs for agricultural and irrigation applications.