Geophysical Research Letters

Water level changes in a large Amazon lake measured with spaceborne radar interferometry and altimetry



We demonstrate that interferometric processing of JERS-1 SAR data over an Amazon lake containing ∼1500 islands yields centimeter-scale changes in the height of the water surface from February 14 to March 30, 1997. For the method to work, we qualitatively find that inundation of about one or two leafless trees per 25 m² multi-look SAR pixel is sufficient to return the radar pulse to the side-looking antenna. Validation is provided by multi-temporal TOPEX-POSEIDON altimetry profiles, which directly measure surface heights relative to a fixed datum. Because SAR provides an image, the water height changes (∼12 cm) can be converted to a net volume measurement (280 million m³) over the 44 days separating the JERS-1 acquisitions. Compared to historical gauge records, removal of this volume from the lake required a ∼50% greater flow.