ICESat-derived inland water surface spot heights

Fiachra E O'Loughlin*, Jeffrey C Neal, Dai Yamazaki, Paul D Bates

*Corresponding author for this work

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

46 Citations (Scopus)
348 Downloads (Pure)


Accurate measurement of water surface height is key to many fields in hydrology and limnology. Satellite radar and laser altimetry have been shown to be useful means of obtaining such data where no ground gauging stations exist, and the accuracy of different satellite instruments is now reasonably well understood. Past validation studies have shown water surface height data from the ICESat instrument to have the highest vertical accuracy (mean absolute errors of ~10 cm for ICESat, compared, for example, with ~28 cm from Envisat), yet no freely available source of processed ICESat data currently exists for inland water bodies. Here we present a database of processed and quality checked ICESat-derived inland water surface heights (IWSH) for water bodies greater than 3 arc seconds (~92 m at the equator) in width. Four automated methods for removing spurious observations or outliers were investigated, along with the impact of using different water masks. We find that the best performing method ensures that observations used are completely surrounded by water in the SRTM Water Body data. Using this method for removing spurious observations we estimate transectaveraged water surface heights at 587,292 unique locations from 2003 to 2009, with the number of locations proportional to the size of the river.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3276-3284
Number of pages9
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
Early online date1 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • ICESat
  • rivers
  • lakes
  • inland water
  • water surface heights


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