Observing Global Surface Water Flood Dynamics

  • Paul D. BatesEmail author
  • Jefferey C. Neal
  • Douglas Alsdorf
  • Guy J.-P. Schumann
Part of the Space Sciences Series of ISSI book series (SSSI, volume 46)


Flood waves moving along river systems are both a key determinant of globally important biogeochemical and ecological processes and, at particular times and particular places, a major environmental hazard. In developed countries, sophisticated observing networks and ancillary data, such as channel bathymetry and floodplain terrain, exist with which to understand and model floods. However, at global scales, satellite data currently provide the only means of undertaking such studies. At present, there is no satellite mission dedicated to observing surface water dynamics and, therefore, surface water scientists make use of a range of sensors developed for other purposes that are distinctly sub-optimal for the task in hand. Nevertheless, by careful combination of the data available from topographic mapping, oceanographic, cryospheric and geodetic satellites, progress in understanding some of the world’s major river, floodplain and wetland systems can be made. This paper reviews the surface water data sets available to hydrologists on a global scale and the recent progress made in the field. Further, the paper looks forward to the proposed NASA/CNES Surface Water Ocean Topography satellite mission that may for the first time provide an instrument that meets the needs of the hydrology community.


Floods Surface water Floodplains Rivers Wetlands Remote sensing Surface water ocean topography (SWOT) mission 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul D. Bates
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jefferey C. Neal
    • 1
  • Douglas Alsdorf
    • 2
  • Guy J.-P. Schumann
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Geographical SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Byrd Polar Research Center, School of Earth SciencesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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