This time the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission brings us over central America, on the area of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. A locks system lifts vessels up 26 meters to the main elevation of the Canal and down again. Traveling through its 77 km takes up to 8 hours. The locks system is driven by releasing water from the lakes along the Canal. These lakes also provide water to the adjacent municipalities, and are used to generate the power for operating the Canal itself.
Alajuela Lake has a drainage area of 1026 square kilometers and contributes to the 45% of the total runoff. It also serves as storage space on a seasonal basis. In December 2010 Alajuela Lake reached its highest recorded water level, prompting authorities to close the Panama Canal for a day.
Here data from Sentinel-1 mission collected between February and July 2017 were used to generate a dynamic view of the seasonal variation of Alajuela Lake level. We evaluated the surface of the lake being about 35 square kilometers in February 2017, and loosing an area of about 16 square kilometers during the following six months.
Sentinel-1 mission is composed of two radar satellites, that means it is an imaging mission with all-weather and day-and-night capability with 6 days repeating cycle, making it an ideal tool to monitor the flooding risk during the wet season on tropical areas.