EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Opportunistic sensing in hydrometeorology

Remko Uijlenhoet1, Lotte de Vos2, Aart Overeem3, and Hidde Leijnse3
Remko Uijlenhoet et al.
  • 1Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands (
  • 2Wageningen Data Competence Center, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
  • 3R&D Observations and Data Technology, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), De Bilt, Netherlands

Traditionally, hydrologists have relied on dedicated measurement equipment to do their 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 coverage and 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 are currently witnessing (notably 5G). 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 presentation 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 (in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia), via crowdsourcing urban air temperatures using smartphone battery temperatures to high-resolution urban rainfall monitoring using personal weather stations.

How to cite: Uijlenhoet, R., de Vos, L., Overeem, A., and Leijnse, H.: Opportunistic sensing in hydrometeorology, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-20583,, 2020


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