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.2020 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,, 2020. [pdf]

Large Scale Flood Risk Mapping in Data Scarce Environments: An Application for Romania

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.

Metrics for the Quantification of Seeding Characteristics to Enhance Image Velocimetry Performance in Rivers

River flow monitoring is essential for many hydraulic and hydrologic applications related to water resource management and flood forecasting. Currently, unmanned aerial systems (UASs) combined with image velocimetry techniques provide a significant low-cost alternative for hydraulic monitoring, allowing the estimation of river stream flows and surface flow velocities based on video acquisitions. The accuracy of these methods tends to be sensitive to several factors, such as the presence of floating materials (transiting onto the stream surface), challenging environmental conditions, and the choice of a proper experimental setting. In most real-world cases, the seeding density is not constant during the acquisition period, so it is not unusual for the patterns generated by tracers to have non-uniform distribution. As a consequence, these patterns are not easily identifiable and are thus not trackable, especially during floods. We aimed to quantify the accuracy of particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) and large-scale particle image velocimetry (LSPIV) techniques under different hydrological and seeding conditions using footage acquired by UASs. With this aim, three metrics were adopted to explore the relationship between seeding density, tracer characteristics, and their spatial distribution in image velocimetry accuracy. The results demonstrate that prior knowledge of seeding characteristics in the field can help with the use of these techniques, providing a priori evaluation of the quality of the frame sequence for post-processing.

Keywords: river monitoring; image velocimetry; LSPIV; PTV; UAS; surface flow velocity; seeding density

How to cite: Dal Sasso, S.F.; Pizarro, A.; Manfreda, S., Metrics for the Quantification of Seeding Characteristics to Enhance Image Velocimetry Performance in RiversRemote Sens. 202012, 1789. [pdf]

An Integrative Information Aqueduct to Close the Gaps between Satellite Observation of Water Cycle and Local Sustainable Management of Water Resources

The past decades have seen rapid advancements in space-based monitoring of essential water cycle variables, providing products related to precipitation, evapotranspiration, and soil moisture, often at tens of kilometer scales. Whilst these data effectively characterize water cycle variability at regional to global scales, they are less suitable for sustainable management of local water resources, which needs detailed information to represent the spatial heterogeneity of soil and vegetation. The following questions are critical to effectively exploit information from remotely sensed and in situ Earth observations (EOs): How to downscale the global water cycle products to the local scale using multiple sources and scales of EO data? How to explore and apply the downscaled information at the management level for a better understanding of soil-water-vegetation-energy processes? How can such fine-scale information be used to improve the management of soil and water resources? An integrative information flow (i.e., iAqueduct theoretical framework) is developed to close the gaps between satellite water cycle products and local information necessary for sustainable management of water resources. The integrated iAqueduct framework aims to address the abovementioned scientific questions by combining medium-resolution (10 m–1 km) Copernicus satellite data with high-resolution (cm) unmanned aerial system (UAS) data, in situ observations, analytical- and physical-based models, as well as big-data analytics with machine learning algorithms. This paper provides a general overview of the iAqueduct theoretical framework and introduces some preliminary results.

Concept Diagram

How to cite: Su, Z.; Zeng, Y.; Romano, N.; Manfreda, S.; Francés, F.; Dor, E.B.; Szabó, B.; Vico, G.; Nasta, P.; Zhuang, R.; Francos, N.; Mészáros, J.; Sasso, S.F.D.; Bassiouni, M.; Zhang, L.; Rwasoka, D.T.; Retsios, B.; Yu, L.; Blatchford, M.L.; Mannaerts, C. An Integrative Information Aqueduct to Close the Gaps between Satellite Observation of Water Cycle and Local Sustainable Management of Water Resources. Water 202012, 1495. [pdf]

Spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow

River monitoring is of particular interest for our society that is facing increasing complexity in water management. Emerging technologies have contributed to opening new avenues for improving our monitoring capabilities, but also generating 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 level of aggregation. Therefore, a requirement 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 particle aggregation, 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) Large-Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV). A descriptor of the seeding characteristics (based on density and aggregation) was introduced based on a newly developed metric π. This value can be approximated and used in practice as π = ν0.1 / (ρ / ρ1) where νρ, and ρcν1 are the aggregation level, the seeding density, and the converging seeding density at ν = 1, respectively. A reduction of image-velocimetry errors was systematically observed by decreasing the values of π; and therefore, the optimal frame window was defined as the one that minimises π. In addition to numerical analyses, the Basento field case study (located in southern Italy) was considered as a proof-of-concept of the proposed framework. Field results corroborated numerical findings, and an error reduction of about 15.9 and 16.1 % was calculated – using PTV and PIV, respectively – by employing the optimal frame window.

Numerical simulation of clustered tracers.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., Dal Sasso, S. F., Perks, M., and Manfreda, S.: Spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.,, in review, 2020. [pdf]

Current Practices in UAS-based Environmental Monitoring

With the increasing role that unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are playing in data collection for environmental studies, two key challenges relate to harmonizing and providing standardized guidance for data collection, and also establishing protocols that are applicable across a broad range of environments and conditions. In this context, a network of scientists are cooperating within the framework of the Harmonious Project to develop and promote harmonized mapping strategies and disseminate operational guidance to ensure best practice for data collection and interpretation. The culmination of these efforts is summarized in the present manuscript. Through this synthesis study, we identify the many interdependencies of each step in the collection and processing chain, and outline approaches to formalize and ensure a successful workflow and product development. Given the number of environmental conditions, constraints, and variables that could possibly be explored from UAS platforms, it is impractical to provide protocols that can be applied universally under all scenarios. However, it is possible to collate and systematically order the fragmented knowledge on UAS collection and analysis to identify the best practices that can best ensure the streamlined and rigorous development of scientific products.

Figure 1 – Workflow Suggested by HARMONIOUS WG1

How to Cite: Tmušić, G.; Manfreda, S.; Aasen, H.; James, M.R.; Gonçalves, G.; Ben-Dor, E.; Brook, A.; Polinova, M.; Arranz, J.J.; Mészáros, J.; Zhuang, R.; Johansen, K.; Malbeteau, Y.; de Lima, I.P.; Davids, C.; Herban, S.; McCabe, M.F. Current Practices in UAS-based Environmental Monitoring. Remote Sens.12, 1001, 2020. [pdf]

Potential advantages of flow-area rating curves compared to classic stage-discharge-relations

River monitoring is a critical issue for hydrological modelling that strongly relies on the use of Flow Rating Curves (FRCs). In most of the cases, FRCs are approximated by least-squares fitting, whose performance may be influenced by measurements variability, which is often limited in high values. In this context, a new formulation has been recently introduced to exploit available knowledge on cross-sectional geometry for a more robust derivation of FRCs. This method combines the wetted-area/stage and the cross-sectionally averaged velocity/stage functions in the FRCs derivation limiting, at least partially, the uncertainty in the extrapolation of higher discharge values. The methodology is tested on four gauged cross-sections of the Tiber River basin, where a relatively high number of measurements are available. This dataset is used to test the reliability of the new approach with respect to the classic method in relatively stable river cross-sections. A jackknifing approach is used to understand the role played by the number of gaugings and range of observations on the applicability of the new formulation highlighting its advantages in data-scarce environments. In particular, we observed that the new approach becomes advantageous when the observations are limited both in terms of the range of observations or in terms of sample size (i.e., <10 samples).

Figure: Mean value of the FRCs and the confidence interval estimated using different sample sizes: a) sample size=5; b) sample size=10; c) sample size=15; d) sample size=30. Red diamonds represent all the available hydrometric measurements.

How to cite: Manfreda, S., A. Pizarro, T. Moramarco, L. Cimorelli, D. Pianese, S. Barbetta, Potential advantages of flow-area rating curves compared to classic stage-discharge-relationsJournal of Hydrology, Volume 585, 124752, 2020. [pdf]

Quantifying Long-term Land Surface and Root Zone Soil Moisture over Tibetan Plateau

It is crucial to monitor the dynamics of soil moisture over the Tibetan Plateau, while considering its important role in understanding the land-atmosphere interactions and their influences on climate systems (e.g., Eastern Asian Summer Monsoon). However, it is very challenging to have both the surface and root zone soil moisture (SSM and RZSM) over this area, especially the study of feedbacks between soil moisture and climate systems requires long-term (e.g., decadal) datasets. In this study, the SSM data from different sources (satellites, land data assimilation, and in-situ measurements) were blended while using triple collocation and least squares method with the constraint of in-situ data climatology. A depth scaling was performed based on the blended SSM product, using Cumulative Distribution Function (CDF) matching approach and simulation with Soil Moisture Analytical Relationship (SMAR) model, to estimate the RZSM. The final product is a set of long-term (~10yr) consistent SSM and RZSM product. The inter-comparison with other existing SSM and RZSM products demonstrates the credibility of the data blending procedure used in this study and the reliability of the CDF matching method and SMAR model in deriving the RZSM.

How to cite: Zhuang, R.; Zeng, Y.; Manfreda, S.; Su, Z. Quantifying Long-term Land Surface and Root Zone Soil Moisture over Tibetan Plateau. Remote Sens. 202012, 509. [pdf]

The Science behind Scour at Bridge Foundations: A Review

Foundation scour is among the main causes of bridge collapse worldwide, resulting in significant direct and indirect losses. A vast amount of research has been carried out during the last decades on the physics and modelling of this phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to provide an up-to-date, comprehensive, and holistic literature review of the problem of scour at bridge foundations, with a focus on the following topics: (i) sediment particle motion; (ii) physical modelling and controlling dimensionless scour parameters; (iii) scour estimates encompassing empirical models, numerical frameworks, data-driven methods, and non-deterministic approaches; (iv) bridge scour monitoring including successful examples of case studies; (v) current approach for assessment and design of bridges against scour; and, (vi) research needs and future avenues.

How to cite: Pizarro, A.; Manfreda, S.; Tubaldi, E., The Science behind Scour at Bridge Foundations: A Review. Water, 12, 374, (doi: 10.3390/w12020374) 2020. [pdf]

An Evaluation of Image Velocimetry Techniques under Low Flow Conditions and High Seeding Densities Using Unmanned Aerial Systems

Image velocimetry has proven to be a promising technique for monitoring river flows using remotely operated platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). However, the application of various image velocimetry algorithms has not been extensively assessed. Therefore, a sensitivity analysis has been conducted on five different image velocimetry algorithms including Large Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV), Large-Scale Particle Tracking Velocimetry (LSPTV), Kanade–Lucas Tomasi Image Velocimetry (KLT-IV or KLT), Optical Tracking Velocimetry (OTV) and Surface Structure Image Velocimetry (SSIV), during low river flow conditions (average surface velocities of 0.12–0.14 m s −1 , Q60) on the River Kolubara, Central Serbia. A DJI Phantom 4 Pro UAS was used to collect two 30-second videos of the surface flow. Artificial seeding material was distributed homogeneously across the rivers surface, to enhance the conditions for image velocimetry techniques. The sensitivity analysis was performed on comparable parameters between the different algorithms, including the particle identification area parameters (such as Interrogation Area (LSPIV, LSPTV and SSIV), Block Size (KLT-IV) and Trajectory Length (OTV)) and the feature extraction rate. Results highlighted that KLT and SSIV were sensitive to changing the feature extraction rate; however, changing the particle identification area did not affect the surface velocity results significantly. OTV and LSPTV, on the other hand, highlighted that changing the particle identification area presented higher variability in the results, while changing the feature extraction rate did not affect the surface velocity outputs. LSPIV proved to be sensitive to changing both the feature extraction rate and the particle identification area. This analysis has led to the conclusions that for surface velocities of approximately 0.12 m s −1 image velocimetry techniques can provide results comparable to traditional techniques such as ADCPs. However, LSPIV, LSPTV and OTV require additional effort for calibration and selecting the appropriate parameters when compared to KLT-IV and SSIV. Despite the varying levels of sensitivity of each algorithm to changing parameters, all configuration image velocimetry algorithms provided results that were within 0.05 m s −1 of the ADCP measurements, on average.

Figure 1: Comparison of surface flow velocities obtained with different algorithms.

How to cite: Pearce, S.; Ljubičić, R.; Peña-Haro, S.; Perks, M.; Tauro, F.; Pizarro, A.; Dal Sasso, S.F.; Strelnikova, D.; Grimaldi, S.; Maddock, I.; Paulus, G.; Plavšić, J.; Prodanović, D.; Manfreda, S. An Evaluation of Image Velocimetry Techniques under Low Flow Conditions and High Seeding Densities Using Unmanned Aerial Systems. Remote Sens., 12, 232, 2020. [pdf]