In hydrological modelling of runoff processes, including water balance, various input data and parameters can be acquired or estimated by the use of remote sensing (RS) techniques.The acquisition and use of synoptic RS areal information rather than traditional point information is an important issue in hydrology. Hydrological models allow runoff/water balance in catchments to be calculated and flow routing within flow channels to be done. For runoff and water balance computations land use, soil moisture, detection of snow and ice, digital terrain models (DTM), as well as hydrometeorological information and discharge are important. For flow routing, water level information, geometric–topographic information such as cross-sections for normal and flood conditions, coefficient of roughness and velocity of flow and its cross-sectional distribution are required. In addition, water level information (lower and upper level) is needed for shipping and for design purposes. In the German part of the River Rhine catchment, several focus areas in the December 1993–January 1994 and January 1995 floods were covered with RS data [ERS-1 and airborne SAR, both C-band VV, passive microwave (18·7, 36·5, 89 GHz), TIR, UV, aerial photographs (b/w PAN, b/w NIR)], giving a good opportunity for a comparison of methods. Evaluation is still continuing. The importance of soil saturation for flood generation and, therefore, for flood monitoring, was shown on this occasion. The use of ERS SAR data for soil moisture estimation is currently being investigated by the Federal Institute of Hydrology. Also, the need for emergency schemes for data acquisition and easy, quick and affordable RS data dissemination was demonstrated. The assimilation of RS data with GIS information such as DTMs, including relevant topographic features like dams, which is omitted in currently available raster digital elevation models, is promising. RS altimetry techniques can be a step towards high resolution DTMs for hydrological purposes. Ground truth reference data are still needed.
digital terrain models