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Measurement of river surface currents with coherent microwave systems

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3 Author(s)
W. J. Plant ; Appl. Phys. Lab., Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA ; W. C. Keller ; K. Hayes

River surface currents have been measured using coherent microwave systems from a bridge, a cableway, several riverbanks, a helicopter, and an airplane. In most cases, the microwave measurements have been compared with conventional measurements of near-surface currents and found to be accurate to within about 10 cm/s. In all cases, the basis for the microwave measurement of surface current is the Doppler shift induced in the signal backscattered from the rough water surface. In this paper, we outline the principles of the measurements and the various implementations that have been used to make microwave measurements of surface currents. Continuous-wave (CW) microwave systems have been used from a bridge to make long-term measurements of surface currents; these are compared with current-meter measurements and with time series of stage. A compact CW system has been developed and used on a cableway to measure surface currents at various distances across a river; these measurements have been compared with acoustic ones. Pulsed Doppler radars have been used to measure river surface currents from a riverbank, a helicopter, and an airplane. In the first two cases, comparisons with both current-meter and acoustic measurements have been made. We suggest that the CW system would be preferable to the pulsed Doppler radar to make such measurements from helicopters in the future. Finally, we consider the implications of our experiments for the measurement of surface currents from aircraft or satellites using interferometric synthetic aperture radars (INSARs). We find that a combination along-track, cross-track INSAR is necessary but that significant limitations are inherent in the technique.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:43 ,  Issue: 6 )