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Volume 22, issue 2 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 1543-1561, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 28 Feb 2018

Research article | 28 Feb 2018

Quantification of surface water volume changes in the Mackenzie Delta using satellite multi-mission data

Cassandra Normandin1, Frédéric Frappart2,3, Bertrand Lubac1, Simon Bélanger4, Vincent Marieu1, Fabien Blarel3, Arthur Robinet1, and Léa Guiastrennec-Faugas1 Cassandra Normandin et al.
  • 1EPOC, UMR 5805, Université de Bordeaux, Allée Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 33615 Pessac, France
  • 2GET-GRGS, UMR 5563, CNRS/IRD/UPS, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, 31400 Toulouse, France
  • 3LEGOS-GRGS, UMR 5566, CNRS/IRD/UPS, Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, 31400 Toulouse, France
  • 4Dép. Biologie, Chimie et Géographie, groupe BOREAS and Québec-Océan, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 allée des ursulines, Rimouski, Qc, G5L 3A1, Canada

Abstract. Quantification of surface water storage in extensive floodplains and their dynamics are crucial for a better understanding of global hydrological and biogeochemical cycles. In this study, we present estimates of both surface water extent and storage combining multi-mission remotely sensed observations and their temporal evolution over more than 15 years in the Mackenzie Delta. The Mackenzie Delta is located in the northwest of Canada and is the second largest delta in the Arctic Ocean. The delta is frozen from October to May and the recurrent ice break-up provokes an increase in the river's flows. Thus, this phenomenon causes intensive floods along the delta every year, with dramatic environmental impacts. In this study, the dynamics of surface water extent and volume are analysed from 2000 to 2015 by combining multi-satellite information from MODIS multispectral images at 500m spatial resolution and river stages derived from ERS-2 (1995–2003), ENVISAT (2002–2010) and SARAL (since 2013) altimetry data. The surface water extent (permanent water and flooded area) peaked in June with an area of 9600km2 (±200km2) on average, representing approximately 70% of the delta's total surface. Altimetry-based water levels exhibit annual amplitudes ranging from 4m in the downstream part to more than 10m in the upstream part of the Mackenzie Delta. A high overall correlation between the satellite-derived and in situ water heights (R>0.84) is found for the three altimetry missions. Finally, using altimetry-based water levels and MODIS-derived surface water extents, maps of interpolated water heights over the surface water extents are produced. Results indicate a high variability of the water height magnitude that can reach 10m compared to the lowest water height in the upstream part of the delta during the flood peak in June. Furthermore, the total surface water volume is estimated and shows an annual variation of approximately 8.5km3 during the whole study period, with a maximum of 14.4km3 observed in 2006. The good agreement between the total surface water volume retrievals and in situ river discharges (R = 0.66) allows for validation of this innovative multi-mission approach and highlights the high potential to study the surface water extent dynamics.

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