GPS Reflections Group Honored with Water Prize

November 12, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

The GPS Reflections Group of University of Colorado-Boulder has been awarded the prestigious Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Creativity Prize for Water. The prize is awarded biannually to acknowledge innovative work that contributes to the sustainable availability of water and the alleviation of the global problem of water scarcity.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 16, concurrently with the 6th International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments (ICWRAE 6), December 16-18, 2014.

Professors Kristine Larson and Eric Small developed a new method to measure water at the Earth’s surface. The research team discovered that standard geodetic GPS instruments are sensitive to hydrological influences. They subsequently developed a cost-effective technique, GPS Interferometric Reflectometry (GPS-IR), to measure soil moisture, snow depth, and vegetation water content around GPS antennas. GPS-IR has the advantage of relying on an existing GPS infrastructure installed by surveyors and geoscientists that covers an increasingly large portion of the global surface.

Larson has written for GPS World magazine (see Innovation: How Deep Is That White Stuff?), and her team’s sea-level work has been reported here before.

Larson and Small collaborated with scientists at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, also in Boulder.

The team uses the GPS-IR technique to analyze data streams from existing GPS networks in near real-time. Data from hundreds of operational GPS sites are downloaded and processed, yielding estimates of hydrologic variables within 24 hours.

Scientists and government agencies can access this information at the team’s web portal and use the data to improve monitoring and forecasting of hydrologic variables.