Remote sensing: hydrology Academic Article uri icon


  • Satellite remote sensing is a viable source of observations of land surface hydrologic fluxes and state variables, particularly in regions where in situ networks are sparse. Over the last 10 years, the study of land surface hydrology using remote sensing techniques has advanced greatly with the launch of NASAs Earth Observing System (EOS) and other research satellite platforms, and with the development of more sophisticated retrieval algorithms. Most of the constituent variables in the land surface water balance (eg, precipitation, evapotranspiration, snow and ice, soil moisture, and terrestrial water storage variations) are now observable at varying spatial and temporal resolutions and accuracy via remote sensing. We evaluate the current status of estimates of each of these variables, as well as river discharge, the direct estimation of which is not yet possible. Although most of the constituent variables are observable by remote sensing, attempts to close the surface water budget from remote sensing alone have generally been unsuccessful, suggesting that current generation sensors and platforms are not yet able to provide hydrologically consistent observations of the land surface water budget at any spatial scale.

published proceedings

  • Progress in Physical Geography Earth and Environment

altmetric score

  • 3.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Tang, Q., Gao, H., Lu, H., & Lettenmaier, D. P.

citation count

  • 113

complete list of authors

  • Tang, Qiuhong||Gao, Huilin||Lu, Hui||Lettenmaier, Dennis P

publication date

  • January 2009