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Benchmarking wide swath altimetry-based river discharge estimation algorithms for the Ganges river system

TitleBenchmarking wide swath altimetry-based river discharge estimation algorithms for the Ganges river system
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBonnema MG, Sikder S, Hossain F, Durand M, Gleason CJ, Bjerklie DM
JournalWater Resources Research
Start Page2439
Date Published04/2016
Keywordsdelta, discharge, floods, Ganges river system, satellite remote sensing, SWOT mission

The objective of this study is to compare the effectiveness of three algorithms that estimate discharge from remotely sensed observables (river width, water surface height, and water surface slope) in anticipation of the forthcoming NASA/CNES Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. SWOT promises to provide these measurements simultaneously, and the river discharge algorithms included here are designed to work with these data. Two algorithms were built around Manning's equation, the Metropolis Manning (MetroMan) method, and the Mean Flow and Geomorphology (MFG) method, and one approach uses hydraulic geometry to estimate discharge, the at-many-stations hydraulic geometry (AMHG) method. A well-calibrated and ground-truthed hydrodynamic model of the Ganges river system (HEC-RAS) was used as reference for three rivers from the Ganges River Delta: the main stem of Ganges, the Arial-Khan, and the Mohananda Rivers. The high seasonal variability of these rivers due to the Monsoon presented a unique opportunity to thoroughly assess the discharge algorithms in light of typical monsoon regime rivers. It was found that the MFG method provides the most accurate discharge estimations in most cases, with an average relative root-mean-squared error (RRMSE) across all three reaches of 35.5%. It is followed closely by the Metropolis Manning algorithm, with an average RRMSE of 51.5%. However, the MFG method's reliance on knowledge of prior river discharge limits its application on ungauged rivers. In terms of input data requirement at ungauged regions with no prior records, the Metropolis Manning algorithm provides a more practical alternative over a region that is lacking in historical observations as the algorithm requires less ancillary data. The AMHG algorithm, while requiring the least prior river data, provided the least accurate discharge measurements with an average wet and dry season RRMSE of 79.8% and 119.1%, respectively, across all rivers studied. This poor performance is directly traced to poor estimation of AMHG via a remotely sensed proxy, and results improve commensurate with MFG and MetroMan when prior AMHG information is given to the method. Therefore, we cannot recommend use of AMHG without inclusion of this prior information, at least for the studied rivers. The dry season discharge (within-bank flow) was captured well by all methods, while the wet season (floodplain flow) appeared more challenging. The picture that emerges from this study is that a multialgorithm approach may be appropriate during flood inundation periods in Ganges Delta.