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Technology and its development for hydrology and the hydrological sciences


Advances in technology ensure progress and this is also true for hydrology and the hydrological sciences. Traditionally, hydrological research and thus data collections have largely been centred on relatively small scale: measurements are still most often taken at point scale.  

Although the hydrological sciences have clearly undergone a significant change in recent decades by examining larger to global scale hydrological processes and related systems and services as well as associated uncertainties, effective and efficient collection of relevant hydrological data at these scales has been much slower to adapt. However, since the turn of the century, hydrologists have embraced the technological advances made in high performance computing and remote sensing in particular to help overcome some of the challenges imposed by scale.  

Remote sensing technologies include ground-based remote sensing instruments (e.g. radar-equipped flow gauges, networked pervasive sensors, GPS equipped sonar boats and dense networks of state-of-the art radar rainfall stations), airborne platforms (e.g. LiDAR) and satellite mission and sensors dedicated to hydrological monitoring and data gathering. As an example, the NASA/CNES proposed Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission may help, as over time repeated imaging of surface water extent and elevation can be used to build up detailed floodplain water topography maps around the globe. In a similar context, ESA's future Sentinel missions under the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme are expected to contribute a significant amount of new and improved data sets to flood risk management and studies of hydrological risks as a whole.