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The optical river bathymetry toolkit

January 28, 2021

Spatially distributed information on water depth is essential for many applications in river research and management and, under certain circumstances, can be inferred from remotely sensed data. Although fluvial remote sensing has emerged as a rapidly developing subdiscipline of the riverine sciences, more widespread adoption of these techniques has been hindered by a lack of accessible software. The Optical River Bathymetry Toolkit (ORByT) fills this void by providing a standalone package for mapping water depth from passive optical image data. The ORByT interface enables end users to import images and field‐based depth measurements, create and refine water masks, and perform spectrally based depth retrieval via an Optimal Band Ratio Analysis algorithm. The resulting bathymetric map can be exported as an image file, point cloud, and/or cross section; a thorough accuracy assessment also is incorporated into the workflow. In addition, image‐derived depth estimates can be subtracted from water surface elevations to obtain bed elevations suitable for input to a hydrodynamic model. Potential users of ORByT must bear in mind the inherent limitations of passive optical remote sensing: reliable bathymetry can only be inferred in clear‐flowing, shallow streams; this approach is not appropriate for more turbid, deeper rivers.

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