A comparison of tools and techniques for stabilising UAS imagery for surface flow observations

This research presents an investigation of different strategies and tools for digital image stabilisation for image velocimetry purposes. Basic aspects of image stabilisation and transformation are presented, and their applicability is discussed in terms of image velocimetry. Seven free-to-use open-source tools (six community-developed and one off-the-shelf) are described and compared according to their stabilisation accuracy, robustness in different flight and ground conditions, computational complexity, ease of use, and other capabilities. A novel approach for fast stabilisation accuracy analysis is also developed, presented, and applied to the stabilised image sequences. Based on the obtained results, some general guidelines for choosing a suitable tool for specific image velocimetry tasks have been obtained. This research also aims to provide a basis for further development or improvement of digital image stabilisation tools, as well as for the analyses of stabilisation impact on image velocimetry results.

How to cite: Robert Ljubičić, Dariia Strelnikova, Matthew T. Perks, Anette Eltner, Salvador Peña-Haro, Alonso Pizarro, Silvano Fortunato Dal Sasso, Ulf Scherling, Pietro Vuono, and Salvatore Manfreda, A comparison of tools and techniques for stabilising UAS imagery for surface flow observations, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2021.

Impact of Flood Control Systems on the Probability Distribution of Floods

Detention dams are one of the most effective practices for flood mitigation. Therefore, the impact of these structures on the basin hydrological response is critical for flood management and the design of flood control structures. With the aim to provide a mathematical framework to interpret the effect of flow control systems on river basin dynamics, the functional relationship between inflows and outflows is investigated and derived in a closed-form. This allowed the definition of a theoretically derived probability distribution of the peak outflows from in-line detention basins. The model has been derived assuming a rectangular hydrograph shape with a fixed duration, and a random flood peak. In the present study, the undisturbed flood distribution is assumed to be Gumbel distributed, but the proposed mathematical formulation can be extended to any other flood-peak probability distribution. A sensitivity analysis of parameters highlighted the influence of detention basin capacity and rainfall event duration on flood mitigation on the probability distribution of the peak outflows. The mathematical framework has been tested using for comparison a Monte Carlo simulation where most of the simplified assumptions used to describe the dam behaviours are removed. This allowed to demonstrate that the proposed formulation is reliable for small river basins characterized by an impulsive response. The new approach for the quantification of flood peaks in river basins characterised by the presence of artificial detention basins can be used to improve existing flood mitigation practices, support the design of flood control systems and flood risk analyses.

How to cite: Manfreda, S., D. Miglino, and C. Albertini, Impact of Flood Control Systems on the Probability Distribution of FloodsHydrology and Earth System Sciences, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-47, in review, 2021. [pdf]

Exploring the use of UAVs with the simplified ‘triangle’ technique for soil water content and evaporative fraction retrievals in a Mediterranean setting

Information acquired from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is frequently used nowadays in a variety of disciplines and research fields. The present study explores for the first time the combined use of UAVs with a newly proposed technique for estimating evaporative fraction (EF) and surface soil moisture (SSM). The investigation is performed in a typical Mediterranean setting, a citrus field with flat topography divided in two plots with different irrigation schemes, in Sicily, Italy, at which ground data acquired during an extensive field campaign in July 2019. Reasonable estimates of both EF and surface wetness were produced, with patterns in agreement to vegetation cover fragmentation, topography, and other site-specific characteristics. Validation shows average error of 0.053 for EF and of 0.040 cm3 cm−3 for SSM. The results are comparable or better to those reported in analogous studies performed in similar areas. This implies that the investigated approach performs well under the semi-arid conditions characterizing the experimental set up. To our knowledge, this study represents the first evaluation of the combined use of the ‘simplified triangle’ with very high-resolution UAV imagery. As such, the findings are of significance regarding the potential future use of the ‘simplified triangle’ approach particularly with very fine resolution imagery such as that provided by UAV for mapping and monitoring EF and SSM in agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Figure: Maps of EF (a) and SSM (b) computed from the ‘simplified triangle’ implementation using the data retrieved with UAV.

How to cite: Petropoulos, G.P., A. Maltese, T. N. Carlson, G. Provenzano, A. Pavlides, G. Ciraolo, D. Hristopulos, F. Capodici, C. Chalkias, G. Dardanelli, S. Manfreda, Exploring the use of UAVs with the simplified “triangle” technique for Soil Water Content and Evaporative Fraction retrievals in a Mediterranean setting, International Journal of Remote Sensing, VOL. 42, NO. 5, 1623–1642, (doi: 10.1080/01431161.2020.1841319) 2021. [pdf]

Optimal spatial distribution of tracers for velocimetry applications

River monitoring is of particular interest as a society that faces increasingly complex water management issues. Emerging technologies have contributed to opening new avenues for improving our monitoring capabilities but have also generated new challenges for the harmonised use of devices and algorithms. In this context, optical-sensing techniques for stream surface flow velocities are strongly influenced by tracer characteristics such as seeding density and their spatial distribution. Therefore, a principal research goal is the identification of how these properties affect the accuracy of such methods. To this aim, numerical simulations were performed to consider different levels of tracer clustering, particle colour (in terms of greyscale intensity), seeding density, and background noise. Two widely used image-velocimetry algorithms were adopted: (i) particle-tracking velocimetry (PTV) and (ii) particle image velocimetry (PIV). A descriptor of the seeding characteristics (based on seeding density and tracer clustering) was introduced based on a newly developed metric called the Seeding Distribution Index (SDI). This index can be approximated and used in practice as SDI=ν0.1/(ρ/ρcν1), where νρ, and ρcν1 are the spatial-clustering level, the seeding density, and the reference seeding density at ν=1, respectively. A reduction in image-velocimetry errors was systematically observed for lower values of the SDI; therefore, the optimal frame window (i.e. a subset of the video image sequence) was defined as the one that minimises the SDI. In addition to numerical analyses, a field case study on the Basento river (located in southern Italy) was considered as a proof of concept of the proposed framework. Field results corroborated numerical findings, and error reductions of about 15.9 % and 16.1 % were calculated – using PTV and PIV, respectively – by employing the optimal frame window.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., S.F. Dal Sasso, M. Perks and S. Manfreda, Identifying the optimal spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 24, 5173–5185, (10.5194/hess-24-5173-2020) 2020. [pdf]

Seeding metrics for error minimisation

River streamflow monitoring is currently facing a transformation due to the emerging of new innovative technologies. Fixed and mobile measuring systems are capable of quantifying surface flow velocities and discharges, relying on video acquisitions. This camera-gauging framework is sensitive to what the camera can “observe” but also to field circumstances such as challenging weather conditions, river background transparency, transiting seeding characteristics, among others. This short communication paper introduces the novel idea of optimising image velocimetry techniques selecting the most informative sequence of frames within the available video. The selection of the optimal frame window is based on two reasonable criteria: i) the maximisation of the number of frames, subject to ii) the minimisation of the recently introduced dimensionless seeding distribution index (SDI). SDI combines seeding characteristics such as seeding density and spatial clustering of tracers, which are used as a proxy to enhance the reliability of image velocimetry techniques. Two field case studies were considered as a proof-of-concept of the proposed framework, on which seeding metrics were estimated and averaged in time to select the proper application window. The selected frames were analysed using LSPIV to estimate the surface flow velocities and river discharge. Results highlighted that the proposed framework might lead to a significant error reduction. In particular, the computed discharge errors, at the optimal portion of the footage, were about 0.40% and 0.12% for each case study, respectively. These values were lower than those obtained, considering all frames available.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., S. F. Dal Sasso, S. Manfreda, Refining image‐velocimetry performances for streamflow monitoring: Seeding metrics to errors minimisation, Hydrological Processes, (doi: 10.1002/hyp.13919 ), 2020.

A Geostatistical Approach to Map Near-Surface Soil Moisture Through Hyperspatial Resolution Thermal Inertia

Thermal inertia has been applied to map soil water content exploiting remote sensing data in the short and long wave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Over the last years, optical and thermal cameras were sufficiently miniaturized to be loaded onboard of unmanned aerial systems (UASs), which provide unprecedented potentials to derive hyperspatial resolution thermal inertia for soil water content mapping. In this study, we apply a simplification of thermal inertia, the apparent thermal inertia (ATI), over pixels where underlying thermal inertia hypotheses are fulfilled (unshaded bare soil). Then, a kriging algorithm is used to spatialize the ATI to get a soil water content map. The proposed method was applied to an experimental area of the Alento River catchment, in southern Italy. Daytime radiometric optical multispectral and day and nighttime radiometric thermal images were acquired via a UAS, while in situ soil water content was measured through the thermo-gravimetric and time domain reflectometry (TDR) methods. The determination coefficient between ATI and soil water content measured over unshaded bare soil was 0.67 for the gravimetric method and 0.73 for the TDR. After interpolation, the correlation slightly decreased due to the introduction of measurements on vegetated or shadowed positions (r² = 0.59 for gravimetric method; r² = 0.65 for TDR). The proposed method shows promising results to map the soil water content even over vegetated or shadowed areas by exploiting hyperspatial resolution data and geostatistical analysis.

How to cite: Paruta, A., P. Nasta, G. Ciraolo, F. Capodici, S. Manfreda, N. Romano, E. Bendor, Y. Zeng, A. Maltese, S. F. Dal Sasso and R. Zhuang, A geostatistical approach to map near-surface soil moisture through hyper-spatial resolution thermal inertia, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, (doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2020.3019200) 2020. [pdf]

Flood extents modelling using geomorphic and climatic‐hydrologic catchment characteristics

A topographic index (flood descriptor) that combines the scaling of bankfull depth with morphology was shown to describe the tendency of an area to be flooded. However, this approach depends on the quality and availability of flood maps and assumes that outcomes can be directly extrapolated and downscaled. This work attempts to relax these problems and answer two questions: 1) Can functional relationships be established between a flood descriptor and geomorphic and climatic‐hydrologic catchment characteristics? 2) If so, can they be used for low‐complexity predictive modelling of envelope flood extents? Linear stepwise and random forest regressions are developed based on classification outcomes of a flood descriptor, using high‐resolution flood modelling results as training benchmarks, and on catchment characteristics. Elementary catchments of four river basins in Europe (Thames, Weser, Rhine and Danube) serve as training dataset, while those of the Rhône river basin in Europe serve as testing dataset. Two return periods are considered, the 10‐ and 10,000‐year. Prediction of envelope flood extents and flood‐prone areas show that both models achieve high hit rates with respect to testing benchmarks. Average values were found to be above 60% and 80% for the 10‐ and the 10,000‐year return periods, respectively. In spite of a moderate to high false discovery rate, the critical success index value was also found to be moderate to high. It is shown that by relating classification outcomes to catchment characteristics the prediction of envelope flood extents may be achieved for a given region, including ungauged basins.

ow to cite: Tavares da Costa, R., S. Zanardo, S. Bagli, A. G. J. Hilberts, S. Manfreda, C. Samela, and A. Castellarin, Predictive modelling of envelope flood extents using geomorphic and climatic-hydrologic catchment characteristics, Water Resources Research, (doi: 10.1029/2019WR026453), 2020.

Modeling Antecedent Soil Moisture to Constrain Rainfall Thresholds for Shallow Landslides Occurrence

Rainfall-triggered shallow landslide events have caused losses of human lives and millions of euros in damage to property in all parts of the world. The need to prevent such hazards combined with the difficulty of describing the geomorphological processes over regional scales led to the adoption of empirical rainfall thresholds derived from records of rainfall events triggering landslides. These rainfall intensity thresholds are generally computed, assuming that all events are not influenced by antecedent soil moisture conditions. Nevertheless, it is expected that antecedent soil moisture conditions may provide critical support for the correct definition of the triggering conditions. Therefore, we explored the role of antecedent soil moisture on critical rainfall intensity-duration thresholds to evaluate the possibility of modifying or improving traditional approaches. The study was carried out using 326 landslide events that occurred in the last 18 years in the Basilicata region (southern Italy). Besides the ordinary data (i.e., rainstorm intensity and duration), we also derived the antecedent soil moisture conditions using a parsimonious hydrological model. These data have been used to derive the rainfall intensity thresholds conditional on the antecedent saturation of soil quantifying the impact of such parameters on rainfall thresholds.

Geographical distribution of the weather stations and landslide events for the study area. The graph in the inset shows the monthly distribution of landslides in Basilicata from 2001 to 2018.

How to cite: Lazzari, M., M. Piccarreta, R. L. Ray and S. Manfreda, Modelling antecedent soil moisture to constrain rainfall thresholds for shallow landslides occurrence, Landslides edited by Dr. Ram Ray, IntechOpen, pp. 1-331, (10.5772/intechopen.92730) 2020. [Link]

Towards harmonisation of image velocimetry techniques for river surface velocity observations

Since the turn of the 21st century, image-based velocimetry techniques have become an increasingly popular approach for determining open-channel flow in a range of hydrological settings across Europe and beyond. Simultaneously, a range of large-scale image velocimetry algorithms have been developed that are equipped with differing image pre-processing and analytical capabilities. Yet in operational hydrometry, these techniques are utilised by few competent authorities. Therefore, imagery collected for image velocimetry analysis (along with reference data) is required both to enable inter-comparisons between these differing approaches and to test their overall efficacy. Through benchmarking exercises, it will be possible to assess which approaches are best suited for a range of fluvial settings, and to focus future software developments. Here we collate and describe datasets acquired from seven countries across Europe and North America, consisting of videos that have been subjected to a range of pre-processing and image velocimetry analyses (Perks et al.2020https://doi.org/10.4121/uuid:014d56f7-06dd-49ad-a48c-2282ab10428e). Reference data are available for 12 of the 13 case studies presented, enabling these data to be used for reference and accuracy assessment.

How to cite: Perks, M. T., Dal Sasso, S. F., Hauet, A., Jamieson, E., Le Coz, J., Pearce, S., Peña-Haro, S., Pizarro, A., Strelnikova, D., Tauro, F., Bomhof, J., Grimaldi, S., Goulet, A., Hortobágyi, B., Jodeau, M., Käfer, S., Ljubičić, R., Maddock, I., Mayr, P., Paulus, G., Pénard, L., Sinclair, L., and Manfreda, S.: Towards harmonisation of image velocimetry techniques for river surface velocity observations, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 1545–1559, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-1545-2020, 2020. [pdf]

Large Scale Flood Risk Mapping in Data Scarce Environments

Large-scale flood risk assessment is essential in supporting national and global policies, emergency operations and land-use management. The present study proposes a cost-efficient method for the large-scale mapping of direct economic flood damage in data-scarce environments. The proposed framework consists of three main stages: (i) deriving a water depth map through a geomorphic method based on a supervised linear binary classification; (ii) generating an exposure land-use map developed from multi-spectral Landsat 8 satellite images using a machine-learning classification algorithm; and (iii) performing a flood damage assessment using a GIS tool, based on the vulnerability (depth–damage) curves method. The proposed integrated method was applied over the entire country of Romania (including minor order basins) for a 100-year return time at 30-m resolution. The results showed how the description of flood risk may especially benefit from the ability of the proposed cost-efficient model to carry out large-scale analyses in data-scarce environments. This approach may help in performing and updating risk assessments and management, taking into account the temporal and spatial changes in hazard, exposure, and vulnerability.

How to cite: Albano, R.; Samela, C.; Crăciun, I.; Manfreda, S.; Adamowski, J.; Sole, A.; Sivertun, Å.; Ozunu, A. Large Scale Flood Risk Mapping in Data Scarce Environments: An Application for Romania. Water 202012, 1834.