River Ice Monitoring

Polar View’s river ice monitoring service delivers information about the location and extent of river ice cover to decision-makers in near real-time. This information is used to assess the level of threat ice-jam floods pose and facilitates early warning and risk mitigation measures.

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The Importance of River Ice Monitoring

In northern climates, the development of ice covers on large rivers is a major concern for water resources management, hydropower generation and flood damage prevention.

Rivers normally freeze up in an upstream direction in a highly complex and dynamic process. Of particular concern is the formation of consolidated ice covers from thinner layers of frazil ice, which in turn can cause ice damming and flooding over large areas. The severity and economic impact of floods related to ice dams is exacerbated by the danger of post-flooding freeze-up.

In order to assess the likelihood of impending floods, it is imperative to monitor the development of ice covers throughout the freeze-up.

Cost Effective Information

Key parameters required to assess the danger of flooding due to ice jams include location, extent and structure of the ice field. However, a systematic determination of these parameters is difficult to achieve using conventional, field-based and aerial surveillance methods.

In remote and inaccessible areas, frequent surveillance can be prohibitively costly. Under these conditions, Earth Observation has emerged as a promising tool to collect information on river ice development over large areas repeatedly and consistently throughout the ice season. Satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery in particular has been shown to yield cost-effective information on ice type on medium and large rivers (i.e. more than 100 m wide) within an operational context.

The Polar View’s river ice monitoring service delivers Earth Observation-derived information about the location and extent of riverine ice covers to decision makers in near real-time. This information is typically used in conjunction with other data sources to assess the level of threat posed by the formation of ice dams and to facilitate early warning and risk mitigation.