Tamlin Pavelsky: Remote Sensing and the New Global River Science

Abstract: Understanding the movement of water and sediment through rivers is among the most persistent scientific concerns in human societies. We have built substantial networks of river gauges to track streamflow and other river-related variables, but despite major financial investments these systems are limited in their spatiotemporal coverage and by the fact that they make measurements at a single point. In the last decade, advances in computing capabilities and sensor availability has resulted in a methodological revolution allowing truly global observation of river systems from space. This work, while not replacing the invaluable data from gauge networks, is allowing observational river science to become truly global for the first time. In this talk, we will explore the evolution of global river remote sensing, starting with a simple question: where are the rivers and what is their surface area? We will then discuss work to understand the properties of rivers and how they are changing, including the extent of river ice and suspended sediment transport. Finally, we will look to the future and the potential to estimate streamflow itself from NASA’s recently launched Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission.

Bio: Dr. Tamlin Pavelsky is a professor of global hydrology in the Department of Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned his Ph.D. in geography from UCLA in 2008. His research has focused on understanding the global distribution of water in rivers, lakes, and mountain snowpack using satellite imagery, field measurements, and regional climate models.

Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and Biological and Environmental Engineering welcome Tamlin Pavelsky as a 2024 Distinguished Speaker in Sustainability.

He will present a second lecture:

New Tools for Adapting Hydrologic Science to Address Societal Needs
March 13, 2024: 9 A.M.
B15 Riley-Robb Hall

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