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Title: Remote Sensing of River Discharge: A Review and a Framing for the Discipline
Remote sensing of river discharge (RSQ) is a burgeoning field rife with innovation. This innovation has resulted in a highly non-cohesive subfield of hydrology advancing at a rapid pace, and as a result misconceptions, mis-citations, and confusion are apparent among authors, readers, editors, and reviewers. While the intellectually diverse subfield of RSQ practitioners can parse this confusion, the broader hydrology community views RSQ as a monolith and such confusion can be damaging. RSQ has not been comprehensively summarized over the past decade, and we believe that a summary of the recent literature has a potential to provide clarity to practitioners and general hydrologists alike. Therefore, we here summarize a broad swath of the literature, and find after our reading that the most appropriate way to summarize this literature is first by application area (into methods appropriate for gauged, semi-gauged, regionally gauged, politically ungauged, and totally ungauged basins) and next by methodology. We do not find categorizing by sensor useful, and everything from un-crewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) to satellites are considered here. Perhaps the most cogent theme to emerge from our reading is the need for context. All RSQ is employed in the service of furthering hydrologic understanding, and we argue more » that nearly all RSQ is useful in this pursuit provided it is properly contextualized. We argue that if authors place each new work into the correct application context, much confusion can be avoided, and we suggest a framework for such context here. Specifically, we define which RSQ techniques are and are not appropriate for ungauged basins, and further define what it means to be ‘ungauged’ in the context of RSQ. We also include political and economic realities of RSQ, as the objective of the field is sometimes to provide data purposefully cloistered by specific political decisions. This framing can enable RSQ to respond to hydrology at large with confidence and cohesion even in the face of methodological and application diversity evident within the literature. Finally, we embrace the intellectual diversity of RSQ and suggest the field is best served by a continuation of methodological proliferation rather than by a move toward orthodoxy and standardization. « less
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Remote Sensing
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National Science Foundation
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