Opportunistic sensing in hydrometeorology

Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences
Friday, October 12, 2018
11:30 am in Harvill 110 ~ Refreshments at 11:15 am
Remko Uijlenhoet
Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group
Department of Environmental Sciences
Wageningen University & Research


Traditionally, as hydrologists we have relied on dedicated measurement equipment to do our business (e.g. rainfall-runoff modeling). Such instruments are typically owned and operated by government agencies and regional or local authorities. Installed and maintained according to (inter)national standards, they offer accurate and reliable information about the state of and fluxes in the hydrological systems we study as scientists or manage as operational agencies. Such standard instruments are often further developments of novel measurement techniques which have their origins in the research community and have been tested during dedicated field campaigns.

One drawback of the operational measurement networks available to the hydrological community today is that they often lack the required spatial and/or temporal resolution for high-resolution real-time monitoring or short-term forecasting of rapidly responding hydrological systems (e.g. urban areas). Another drawback is that dedicated networks are often costly to install and maintain, which makes it a challenge for nations in the developing world to operate them on a continuous basis, for instance.

Yet, our world is nowadays full of sensors, often related to the rapid development in wireless communication networks we have witnessed in the recent past. Let us try to make use of such opportunistic sensors to do our (hydrologic) science and our (water management) operations. They may not be as accurate or reliable as the dedicated measurement equipment we are used to working with, let alone meet official international standards, but they typically come in large numbers and are accessible online. Hence, in combination with smart retrieval algorithms and statistical treatment, opportunistic sensors may provide a valuable complementary source of information regarding the state of our environment.

The seminar will focus on some recent examples of the potential of opportunistic sensing techniques in hydrology and water resources, from rainfall monitoring using microwave links from cellular communication networks, via crowdsourcing urban air temperatures using smartphone battery temperatures to high-resolution urban rainfall monitoring using personal weather stations.


Remko Uijlenhoet received both the MSc degree (Hydrology and Water Resources, 1990) and the PhD degree (Hydrometeorology, 1999) from Wageningen University. From 1997 to 1999 he was a Marie Curie Fellow at the Laboratoire d’Etude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environnement (LTHE) in Grenoble, France. From 2000 to 2001 he was a Research Associate in the Water Resources Program at Princeton University, USA. In 2001 he received a 5-year grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to set up a research team in Hydrometeorology, within the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group at Wageningen University. In 2006 he became an Associate Professor and in 2007 he was appointed Full Professor of Environmental Science and Chair Holder of Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management at Wageningen University. Sabbatical leaves: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain (Department of Hydraulic, Maritime and Environmental Engineering, 2002-04 to 2002-07); Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2009-06 to 2009-08); Duke University, Durham, NC, USA (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2015-07 to 2015-08).