Quantification of braided river channel change using archival digital image analysis

S.N. Lane, P.E. Widdison, R.E. Thomas, Philip Ashworth, J.L. Best, I.A. Lunt, G.H. Sambrook-Smith, C.J. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historical archives of grey-scale river channel imagery are extensive. Here, we present and test a methodology to extract detailed quantitative topographic date from such imagery of sand-bed rivers. Extracting elevation information from rivers is difficult as they are characterized by a low relative relief (less than 4 m); the area of interest may be spatially extensive (e.g. active channel widths > 500 m in large braided rivers); the rate of change of surface elevation is generally low except in the vicinity of individual channel banks where the rate of change is very high: there is the complication that comes from innundation: and there may be an added complication caused by blockage of the field of view by vegetation. Here, we couple archival photogrammetric techniques with image processing methods and test these for quantification of sand-bed braided river dynamics, illustrated for a 500 m wide, 3 km long reach of the Spouth Sasketchewan River, Canada. Digitial photogrammetry was used to quantify dry areas and water edge elevations. A methodology was then used to calibrate the special signature of inundated areas by combining established two media digital photogrammetric methods and image matching. This allowed determination of detailed depth maps for inundated area and, when combined with dry area data, creation of depths detectable from sequential digital elevation models. The result was a series of elevation models that demonstrate the potential for acquiring detailed and precise elevation data from any historical aerial imagery of rivers without needing associated calibration data, provided that imagery is of the necessary scale to capture the features of interest. We use these data to highlight several aspects of channel change on the South Saskatchewan River, including bar movement, bank erosion and channel infilling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-985
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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