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Remote sensing of rivers: the emergence of a subdiscipline in the river sciences

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Abstract

This article reports on the special issue of Earth Surface Processes and Landforms dedicated to remote sensing of rivers. This emerging subdiscipline of river science has grown at a rapid rate in recent years because of: (a) the growing desire and need for data to document and explore the full range of spatial and temporal variations in river systems; (b) evolving technologies that enable lower cost data acquisition, processing and analysis at reach to catchment to continental scales; and (c) the increasing engagement of river scientists with GIScience. The convergence of these factors and the ever growing number of practitioners speaks to the need for more communication among researchers, a major reason for creating this special issue. The 12 articles in the volume cover a broad spectrum of applications that use a variety of platforms and sensors, ranging from photogrammetric mapping of riffle-pool morphology beneath forest canopy using a camera mounted on a hand held pole to satellite-based synthetic radar mapping of subcontinental scale hydrology of large rivers. In this overview each of the 12 articles is briefly summarized. Based on these works and other research, it is concluded that the time for more widespread application of river remote sensing techniques is now. To promote more widespread use of remote sensing techniques for river science and management, the following are advocated: (a) developing stand alone or plug-in software products that enable non-expert users to implement these new methods, (b) incorporating remote sensing of rivers training into classes, workshops, and on-line tutorials; and (c) promoting more intentional and formal collaboration among members of the river remote sensing community. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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