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Radar topography data reveal drainage relics in the eastern Sahara

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The Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) elevation data reveal segments of inactive drainage channel systems in the eastern Sahara. Four sites are investigated and their drainage networks are delineated and compared with processed Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) images. These include parts of the drainage lines that lead to the Kufra Oasis in Libya; the eastern Gilf Kebir drainage system that straddles the border region between Egypt and Sudan; the lower reach of Wadi Howar, the extinct western Nile tributary in Sudan; and a reversed flow channel of Wadi Kubbaniya northwest of Aswan in Egypt. These features are delineated using SRTM data and a Geographic Information System (GIS) hydrologic routine. The results show that the SRTM signals penetrate the desert-sandy surfaces and map ancient drainage systems in the same way as SAR. The study also demonstrates that SRTM data can be used to confirm or modify pathways of channel courses mapped from radar images alone. Because of this capability, it is also recommended that SRTM data be used in place of GTOPO30 elevation data in hydrologic modelling of sand-covered deserts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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