Amazon hydrology from space: scientific advances and future challenges


As the largest river basin on Earth, the Amazon is of major importance to the world’s climate and water resources. Over the past decades, advances in satellite-based remote sensing (RS) have brought our understanding of its terrestrial water cycle and the associated hydrological processes to a new era. Here, we review major studies and the various techniques using satellite RS in the Amazon. We show how RS played a major role in supporting new research and key findings regarding the Amazon water cycle, and how the region became a laboratory for groundbreaking investigations of new satellite retrievals and analyses. At the basin-scale, the understanding of several hydrological processes was only possible with the advent of RS observations, such as the characterization of “rainfall hotspots” in the Andes-Amazon transition, evapotranspiration rates, and variations of surface waters and groundwater storage. These results strongly contribute to the recent advances of hydrological models and to our new understanding of the Amazon water budget and aquatic environments. In the context of upcoming hydrology-oriented satellite missions, which will offer the opportunity for new synergies and new observations with finer space-time resolution, this review aims to guide future research agenda towards an integrated monitoring and understanding of the Amazon water from space. Integrated multidisciplinary studies, fostered by international collaborations, set up future directions to tackle the great challenges the Amazon is currently facing, from climate change to increased anthropogenic pressure.

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