hero image
Colin J. Gleason - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Colin J. Gleason

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Colin Gleason's research measures focuses on measuring how much of the earth’s water is in rivers at any point in time.

Expertise (6)

Global Water Budget

Ungauged Basins

Fluvial Geomorphology

Fluvial Hydrology

Remote Sensing

Arctic Hydrology


Colin Gleason engages in a wide array of research and education activities, with a focus on translating process-based hydrology and geochemistry to global scales through Arctic fieldwork, satellite data processing and geomorphically informed modeling and data assimilation.

He leads Fluvial@UMass, which he says calls, "a research group that cares about rivers, climate change, and the Arctic.”

Social Media

Education (3)

University of California Los Angeles: Ph.D., Geography

State University of New York: M.S., Environmental Resources Engineering

State University of New York: B.S., Forest Engineering

Select Recent Media Coverage (2)

Billion-dollar NASA satellite launches to track Earth’s water

Smithsonian Magazine  online


Colin Gleason is quoted in an article about NASA’s launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite (SWOT),designed to study the impact of climate change on Earth’s water. “If SWOT does what we think it’s going to do, it’s going to change the face of hydrology,” Gleason said.


view more

Satellites reveal Arctic rivers are changing faster than we thought



“This is a new, publicly available daily record of flow across the global North,” adds Colin Gleason, civil and environmental engineering professor and principal investigator on the study. “No one has ever tried to do it at this scale: teaching the models what the satellites saw daily in half a million rivers from millions of satellite observations. It’s a very sophisticated data assimilation, which is the process of merging models and data.”

view more

Select Publications (5)

Extending global river gauge records using satellite observations

Environmental Research Letters


Long-term, continuous, and real-time streamflow records are essential for understanding and managing freshwater resources. However, we find that 37% of publicly available global gauge records (N= 45 837) are discontinuous and 77% of gauge records do not contain real-time data. Historical periods of social upheaval are associated with declines in gauge data availability. Using river width observations from Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites, we fill in missing records at 2168 gauge locations worldwide with more than 275 000 daily discharge estimates.

view more

Inversion of river discharge from remotely sensed river widths: A critical assessment at three-thousand global river gauges

Remote Sensing of Environment


Accurately estimating river discharge from satellite-derived river hydraulic variables (e.g., width, height, and slope) is the overarching goal of the remote sensing of discharge (RSQ) community. Numerous past studies have developed and intercompared different RSQ algorithms to demonstrate their feasibility, yet relatively few have focused on assessing how the RSQ algorithms are adapted to a wide range of rivers globally. As the community is now ready to expand to the global scale given advances in computing power, sensors, and the launch of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission, a much broader geographic view of RSQ accuracy should be prioritized toward “better generalizability” instead of “higher accuracy at limited places”.

view more

Athabasca River Avulsion Underway in the Peace‐Athabasca Delta, Canada

Water Resources Research


Avulsions change river courses and transport water and sediment to new channels impacting infrastructure, floodplain evolution, and ecosystems. Abrupt avulsion events (occurring over days to weeks) are potentially catastrophic to society and thus receive more attention than slow avulsions, which develop over decades to centuries and can be challenging to identify. Here, we examine gradual channel changes of the Peace‐Athabasca River Delta (PAD), Canada using in situ measurements and 37 years of Landsat satellite imagery. A developing avulsion of the Athabasca River is apparent along the Embarras River–Mamawi Creek (EM) distributary.

view more

Mapping and characterizing Arctic beaded streams through high resolution satellite imagery

Remote Sensing of Environment


Arctic beaded streams provide unique ecosystem functions and serve as important tundra habitats. Their unique ‘beads-on-a-string’ morphology is thought to form from thermokarst erosion, and they are densely represented in permafrost-ridden landscapes. Despite their ubiquity in high latitude regions, beaded stream formation and occurrence is not well studied, and beaded streams are not globally mapped. Access to these streams is challenging in their remote, dynamic environment, and up until recently, monitoring these streams through satellite imagery was difficult given their relatively small size with channel widths of a few meters.

view more

Remote sensing of broad-scale controls on large river anabranching

Remote Sensing of Environment


River patterns reflect complex geomorphological processes and affect ecosystems and human development along floodplains. Physical controls on anabranching development have been studied primarily at local scales on relatively small rivers (i.e., discharge

view more