Estimating uncertainty associated with water stages from a single SAR image

Guy Schumann*, Florian Pappenberger, Patrick Matgen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


It is the goal of remote sensing to infer information about objects or a natural process from a remote location. This invokes that uncertainty in measurement should be viewed as central to remote sensing. In this study, the uncertainty associated with water stages derived from a single SAR image for the Alzette (G.D. of Luxembourg) 2003 flood is assessed using a stepped GLUE procedure. Main uncertain input factors to the SAR processing chain for estimating water stages include geolocation accuracy, spatial filter window size, image thresholding value, DEM vertical precision and the number of river cross sections at which water stages are estimated. Initial results show that even with plausible parameter values uncertainty in water stages over the entire river reach is 2.8 m on average. Adding spatially distributed field water stages to the GLUE analysis following a one-at-a-time approach helps to considerably reduce SAR water stage uncertainty (0.6 m on average) thereby identifying appropriate value ranges for each uncertain SAR water stage processing factor. For the GLUE analysis a Nash-like efficiency criterion adapted to spatial data is proposed whereby acceptable SAR model simulations are required to outperform a simpler regression model based on the field-surveyed average river bed gradient. Weighted CDFs for all factors based on the proposed efficiency criterion allow the generation of reliable uncertainty quantile ranges and 2D maps that show the uncertainty associated with SAR-derived water stages. The stepped GLUE procedure demonstrated that not all field data collected are necessary to achieve maximum constraining. A possible efficient way to decide on relevant locations at which to sample in the field is proposed. It is also suggested that the resulting uncertainty ranges and flood extent or depth maps may be used to evaluate 1D or 2D flood inundation models in terms of water stages, depths or extents. For this, the extended GLUE approach, which copes with the presence of uncertainty in the observed data, may be adopted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1047
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008


  • Data value
  • Model acceptability
  • Remote sensing
  • Stepped GLUE
  • Uncertainty
  • Water stages

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