The potential of satellite radar altimetry in flood forecasting: concept and implementation for the Niger-Benue river basin
- International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka
Abstract. Flood forecasting in the downstream part of any hydrological basin is extremely difficult due to the lack of basin-wide hydrological information in near real-time and the absence of a data-sharing treaty among the transboundary nations. The accuracy of forecasts emerging from a hydrological model could be compromised without prior knowledge of the day-to-day flow regulation at different locations upstream of the Niger and Benue rivers. Only satellite altimeter monitoring allows us to identify the actual river levels upstream that reflect the human intervention at that location. This is critical for making accurate downstream forecasts. This present study aims to demonstrate the capability of altimeter-based flood forecasting along the Niger-Benue River in Nigeria. The study includes the comparison of decadal (at every 10 days from Jason-2) or monthly (at every 35 days from Envisat/AltiKa) observations from 2002 to 2014, with historical in situ measurements from 1990 to 2012. The water level obtained from these sources shows a good correlation (0.7–0.9). After validation of hydrological parameters obtained from two sources, a quantitative relation (rating curve) of upstream water level and downstream discharge is derived. This relation is then adopted for calculation of discharge at observation points, which is used to propagate the flow downstream at a desired location using a hydraulic river model. Results from this study from Jason-2 shows a promising correlation (R2 ≥ 90% with a Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient of more than 0.70) with 5~days ahead of downstream flow prediction over the Benue stream.