Articles | Volume 19, issue 11
Research article
09 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 09 Nov 2015

Quantification of the contribution of the Beauce groundwater aquifer to the discharge of the Loire River using thermal infrared satellite imaging

E. Lalot, F. Curie, V. Wawrzyniak, F. Baratelli, S. Schomburgk, N. Flipo, H. Piegay, and F. Moatar

Abstract. Seven Landsat thermal infrared (TIR) images taken over the period 2000–2010 were used to establish longitudinal temperature profiles of the middle Loire River where it flows above the Beauce aquifer. The groundwater discharge along the river course was quantified for each identified groundwater catchment area using a heat budget based on temperature variations of the Loire River estimated from the TIR images. The results showed that 75 % of the temperature differences, between in situ observations and TIR image-based estimations, remained within the ±1 °C interval. The main discharge area of the Beauce aquifer into the Loire River was located between river kilometers 630 and 650, where there was a temperature drop of 1–1.5 °C in the summer and a rise of 0.5 °C in winter. According to the heat budgets, groundwater discharge was higher during the winter period (13.5 m3 s−1) than during the summer period (5.3 m3 s−1). These findings are in line with the results of both a groundwater budget and a process-based distributed hydrogeological model. Groundwater input was also found to be higher during the Loire's flow recession periods.

Short summary
This work shows that satellite thermal infrared images (LANDSAT) can be used to locate and quantify groundwater discharge into a large river (Loire River, France - 100 to 300 m wide). Groundwater discharge rate is found to be highly variable with time and space and maximum during flow recession periods and in winter. The main identified groundwater discharge area into the Loire River corresponds to a known discharge area of the Beauce aquifer.