The United States Geological Survey and the University of Washington collaborated on a series of initial experiments on the Lewis, Toutle, and Cowlitz Rivers during September 2000 and a detailed experiment on the Cowlitz River during May 2001 to determine the feasibility of using helicopter-mounted radar to measure river discharge. Surface velocities were measured using a pulsed Doppler radar, and river depth was measured using ground-penetrating radar. Surface velocities were converted to mean velocities, and horizontal registration of both velocity and depth measurements enabled the calculation of river discharge. The magnitude of the uncertainty in velocity and depth indicate that the method error is in the range of 5 percent. The results of this experiment indicate that helicopter-mounted radar can make the rapid, accurate discharge measurements that are needed in remote locations and during regional floods.
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River discharge measurements by using helicopter-mounted radar