Extending global river gauge records using satellite observations

Ryan M. Riggs, George H. Allen, Jida Wang, Tamlin M. Pavelsky, Colin J. Gleason, Cédric H. David, Michael Durand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term, continuous, and real-time streamflow records are essential for understanding and managing freshwater resources. However, we find that 37% of publicly available global gauge records (N = 45 837) are discontinuous and 77% of gauge records do not contain real-time data. Historical periods of social upheaval are associated with declines in gauge data availability. Using river width observations from Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites, we fill in missing records at 2168 gauge locations worldwide with more than 275 000 daily discharge estimates. This task is accomplished with a river width-based rating curve technique that optimizes measurement location and rating function (median relative bias = 1.4%, median Kling-Gupta efficiency = 0.46). The rating curves presented here can be used to generate near real-time discharge measurements as new satellite images are acquired, improving our capabilities for monitoring and managing river resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064027
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Landsat
  • rating curve
  • remote sensing of discharge
  • river discharge
  • river gauge
  • Sentinel-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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