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The Delta-X fall campaign is well underway. The fall campaign is meant to capture the hydrodynamics and vegetation patterns of the region while the Mississippi River discharge is near its lowest point and when vegetation has reached its peak biomass. Delta-X already captured the highest annual river discharge when herbaceous vegetation is just starting to grow in the Spring. 

AVIRIS-NG flew 4 flights over the last week, starting on August 18th, and completed Atchafalaya vegetation and water quality lines. It also flew Terrebonne vegetation and water quality lines, nearly completing the Terrebonne West vegetation lines. Image below shows quick look image of AVIRIS-NG lines over Wax Lake Delta in the Atchafalaya basin.

AirSWOT also flew 4 flights: over Atchafalaya high & receding tide and Terrebonne East & West high tide to measure water surface elevation.

Together, AirSWOT and AVIRIS-NG flew 3 joint flights. UAVSAR is scheduled to join the campaign on Saturday August 28th flying on the ARFC G-III.

Field teams and have been taking measurements on the ground coincident with the airborne instruments as much as possible. Water Quality (Boston University) team collected water samples as well as reflectance to coincide with AVIRIS-NG overflight. The Islands Team (Caltech and University of Texas) collected depth profiles, sediment profiles, as well as water samples and ADCP transects (i.e. river discharge measurements) to complement data collected by the ADCP (JPL and University of North Carolina) and Water Quality teams.

The Vegetation Team (Florida International University) collected vegetation samples (pictured below), root and soil cores, and characterized subplot representativeness.


The L-band radar aboard the AFRC C-20A successfully completed all 7 local California flights for monitoring Central San Andreas Fault, Hayward Fault, and the Eel River landslide study.  The Eel River landslide is a joint study with the P-band radar to determine the relative sensitivity of landslide detection between the two frequencies in vegetated area.  Despite the pandemic, we have flown 290 flight hours in FY21 and is slated to fly about 500 hours by the end of FY21.


The JPL QUAKES team is conducting the first flight test of the QUAKES-I instrument over Southern California. The flight plan covers the highest and lowest points in California, earthquake faults in the state’s interior and some coastal zones. The visible imagery collected by the instrument will be processed into a geo-rectified 3D terrain map and point cloud for use in understanding plate tectonics and other surface phenomenon. 


The L-band radar aboard the JSC G-III successfully completed the Santa Barbara Oil Slick experiment on 14 May in support of a NASA ROSES grant from NASA’s Earth Science Disasters program, managed by David Green, to develop an algorithm to measure oil slick thickness using SAR to become Operational at the NOAA Marine Pollution Response group.  The purpose of this campaign is to validate oil slick characterization algorithms and to prepare for NISAR disaster response to oil spills and major storms.  The study site is a natural seep field off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA.  UAVSAR observations will be integrated with in-situ data and satellite imagery in the analysis.  The two UAVSAR polarimetric color composite images acquired two hours apart show the evolution of the oil thickness with respect to increasing wind speed as seen in radar backscatter.  Oil on the sea surface effectively smooths the ocean surface and reduces the radar backscatter compared to the surrounding ocean.  As the sea surface was roughed up by increasing wind speed, only the thicker oil slick remained visible in radar backscatter imagery.  JPL participation on the study included Ben Holt (329), who was on the vessel, and Cathleen Jones (334) who was onboard during the UAVSAR overflights.


The JPL QUAKES SAR Fusion imagery collected during transit from Houston to Southern California. The SAR Fusion suite of sensors includes 2 SWIR and 2 visible Bayer imagers that are coincident with the SAR sensor.

Images collected over high relief areas. The team is getting the
data off the plane this week and will process them into 3D products


Delta-X wrapped up a successful Spring 2021 high flow campaign in the Mississippi River Delta last week.  AirSWOT and UAVSAR were able to survey three different tidal conditions in the eastern part of the Terrebone basin (receding tide on 12 April, low tide on 15 April, and high tide on 18 April.)  Over the entire Delta-X Spring 2021 campaign, AirSWOT collected a total of 226 Delta-X flight lines and UAVSAR collected ~138 flight lines in the Atchafalaya and Terrebonne basins.  The Boston University Water Quality team wrapped up their last week of sampling in the Terrebone basin on 22 April. 


2021 Delta-X campaign.  AirSWOT flights were based out of New Orleans and they successfully executed 10 flights between 26 March and 18 April, totaling 56 hours.  Except for the first training flight, AirSWOT and UAVSAR imaged the delta region at the same time.  AirSWOT instrument will provide water-surface slope in the delta channels to the Delta-X Science Team.


The L-band radar aboard the JSC G-III has successfully completed the spring 2021 Delta-X campaign.  In all we conducted 9 flights over 3 different regions of Atchafalaya Bay in Louisiana between 27 March and 18 April totaling 51.2 hours.  These nine flights were flown over a range of tidal conditions to capture the wetlands at different water level heights.  The Delta-X science team will be using UAVSAR phase difference imagery from adjacent flight lines to determine water level change in wetlands.  This information, along with other airborne and in-situ data, will help them calibrate their hydrology and sediment transport model to predict long-term soil accretion at the delta under projected relative sea level rise, river discharge, and sediment supply.  


On 7 April, UAVSAR and AirSWOT imaged Terrebonne West with the Louisiana State University (LSU) field teams in the Fourleague Bay area at intensive study sites 322 and 399.  UAVSAR collected 16 lines (8 times the same 2 flight lines).  AirSWOT collected 22 lines.  Conditions were too cloudy for AVIRIS-NG to collect data.  The LSU Island team measured flow velocity at site 399 at 10:00 AM and 3:30 PM. The LSU ADCP team took the 10 planned ADCP transects around site 322 then sites 399.

On 11 April, the BU Water Quality team traveled 66 miles on the water all the way across Fourleague Bay, collecting water samples and radiometry along the way.  The ADCP team finished all planned transects in the afternoon. These transects successfully concluded all planned ADCP measurements (i.e. water flow in channels). 

On 12 April, AirSWOT and UAVSAR performed their first of East Terrebonne flights to capture the receding tide.  UAVSAR collected 16 lines over 6.1 hours.  AirSWOT also had a productive flight collecting 21 lines. The Boston University Water Quality team collected a few water station measurements across Lake Decade. In addition, Delta-X held a press conference with short presentations by Hank Margolis, Cathleen Jones, Robert Twilley and Marc Simard, followed by Q&A. There was a second one-on-one AP interview with Marc Simard in the afternoon.

AVIRIS-NG departed Louisiana on 11 April after successfully completing its part of the Delta-X campaign, collecting all vegetation lines across the Atchafalaya and Terrebone basins and several data collections for water quality across a variety of tidal states.

UAVSAR quicklook image of Terrebone East produced
by UAVSAR operator Tim Miller after the 12 April flight


Delta-X has successfully been running as planned with it first set of flights over the Mississippi River Delta floodplain by Delta-X triplets: UAVSAR, AirSWOT and AVIRIS-NG on Saturday, 27 March (See quick-look images from UAVSAR and AVIRIS-NG).

As of 6 April, AirSWOT and UAVSAR flew simultaneously (~5 hours) 3 times over the Atchafalaya Basin and twice over the Terrebonne Basin.  The basins are located in the land growing and losing parts of the floodplain respectively.  AVIRIS-NG flew simultaneously to the radars and did a few more solo flights to extend coverage of wetlands.  During each of their ~5 hours of flight, the UAVSAR continuously repeats 2 flight lines 8 times and the AirSWOT system repeats 7 flight lines 3 times.  The repeated imaging of the same flight lines was designed to capture the propagation of the tidal wave, through InSAR, across the floodplain.  While the radar provide measurements to determine the flow of water, AVIRIS-NG, an imaging spectrometer, tells us what is in that water.  The combined airborne and field measurements will be used to calibrate a hydrodynamic model used to forecast the vulnerable and resilient part of the Mississippi River Delta (more info here: ).

10 full days of Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler measurements
along transects crisscrossing river channels of the regions. They
are used to estimate bathymetry and flow of water in the rivers