RivWidthCloud

RivWidthCloud: An Automated Google Earth Engine algorithm for river width extraction from remotely sensed imagery. The wetted width of a river is one of the most important hydraulic parameters that can be readily measured using remote sensing. Remotely sensed river widths are used to estimate key attributes of river systems, including changes in their surface area, channel storage, and discharge. Although several published algorithms automate river network and width extraction from remote sensing images, they are limited by only being able to run on local computers and do not automatically manage cloudy images as input. Here we present RivWidthCloud, a river width software package developed on the Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform. RivWidthCloud automatically extracts river centerline and widths from optical satellite images with the ability to flag observations that are obstructed by features like clouds, cloud shadows, and snow based on existing quality band classification. Because RivWidthCloud is built on a popular cloud computing platform, it allows users to easily apply the algorithm to the platform’s vast archive of remote sensing images, thereby reducing the users’ overhead for computing hardware and data storage. By comparing RivWidthCloud-derived widths from Landsat images to in situ widths from the U.S. and Canada, we show that RivWidthCloud can estimate widths with high accuracy (root mean square error: 99 m; mean absolute error: 43 m; mean bias: -21 m). By making RivWidthCloud publicly available, we anticipate that it will be used to address both river science questions and operational applications of water resource management.

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