Xiao Yang

Assistant Professor





Educational Background

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, PhD

  • University of Hong Kong, MPhil

  • University of Science and Technology of China, BSc


  • Earthquakes and Volcanoes (Spring, 2023)

Research Themes

  • Remote sensing

  • Hydrology

  • Climate change

Dr. Yang’s research interests include global scale inland water processes and their response to climate change and other human influences. His recent studies take advantage of the advances in cloud computing to study lake and river properties from decades of satellite records. While his research focuses on inland surface water, he has a wide interest in remote sensing applications in environmental monitoring. 

Research lab website: www.yhydrolimno.org


Publications (*joint authorship)


  • Yang*, X., O’Reilly*, C.M., Gardner, J.R., Ross, M.R.V., Topp, S.N., Wang, J., Pavelsky, T.M., accepted. The color of Earth’s lakes. Geophysical Research Letters.


  • Feng, D., Gleason, C.J., Yang, X., Allen, G.H., Pavelsky, T.M., 2022. How have global river widths changed over time? Water Resources Research.

  • Januchowski-Hartley, S.R., Pawar, S.K., Yang, X., Shinebayar, K., Jorissen, M., Bristol, R., Mantel, S., Pregnolato, M., White, J.C., 2022. Supporting proactive planning for climate change adaptation and conservation using an attributed road-river structure dataset. Journal of Environmental Management.

  • Wang, B., Smith, L., Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., Altenau, E.H., Gleason, C.J., Pietroniro, A., Rodríguez, E., Bates, P., 2022. Broad-scale controls on large river anabranching. Remote Sensing of Environment.

  • Wang, C., Pavelsky, T.M., Yao, F., Yang, X., Zhang, S., Chapman, B., Song, C., Sebastian, A., Frizzelle, B., Frankenberg, E., 2022. Repeat-pass L-band UAVSAR images for flood extent mapping during Hurricane Florence. Water Resources Research.

  • Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., Ross, M.R.V., Januchowski-Hartley, S.R., Dolan, W., Altenau, E.H., Belanger, M., Byron, D.K., Durand, M.T., Dusen, I.V., Galit, H., Jorissen, M., Langhorst, T., Lawton, E., Lynch, R., Mcquillan, K.A., Pawar, S., Whittemore, A., 2022. Mapping flow-obstructing structures on global rivers. Water Resources Research.


  • Dolan, W., Pavelsky, T.M., Yang, X., 2021. Functional Lake-to-Channel Connectivity Impacts Lake Ice in the Colville Delta, Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.

  • Feng, D., Gleason, C.J., Lin, P., Yang, X., Pan, M., Ishitsuka, Y., 2021. Recent changes to Arctic river discharge. Nature Communications.

  • Riggs, R.M., Allen, G.H., David, C.H., Lin, P., Pan, M., Yang, X., 2021. RODEO: An algorithm and Google Earth Engine application for river discharge retrieval from Landsat. Environmental Modeling & Software.

  • Mulligan, M., Lehner, B., Zarfl, C., Thieme, M., Beames, P., van Soesbergen, A., Higgins, J., Januchowski-Hartley, S.R., Brauman, K., Felice, L.D., Wen, Q., Leaniz, C.G. de, Belletti, B., Mandle, L., Yang, X., Wang, J., Mazany-Wright, N., 2021. Global Dam Watch: Curated data and tools for management and decision making. Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability.

  • Thellman*, A., Jankowski*, K.J., Hayden, B., Yang, X., Dolan, W., Smits, A.P., O’Sullivan, A.M., 2021. The Ecology of River Ice. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 126, e2021JG006275.

  • Altenau, E.H., Pavelsky, T.M., Durand, M.T., Yang, X., Frasson, R.P. de M., Bendezu, L., 2021. The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission River Database (SWORD): A Global River Network for Satellite Data Products. Water Resources Research 57, e2021WR030054.

  • Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., Bendezu, L.P., Zhang, S., 2021. Simple Method to Extract Lake Ice Condition From Landsat Images. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 1–10.

  • Topp, S.N., Pavelsky, T.M., Dugan, H.A., Yang, X., Gardner, J., Ross, M.R.V., 2021. Shifting Patterns of Summer Lake Color Phenology in Over 26,000 US Lakes. Water Resources Research 57, e2020WR029123.

  • Zhang, S., Pavelsky, T.M., Arp, C.D., Yang, X., 2021. Remote sensing of lake ice phenology in Alaska. Environmental Research Letters 16, 064007.

  • Little, S., Pavelsky, T.M., Hossain, F., Ghafoor, S., Parkins, G.M., Yelton, S.K., Rodgers, M., Yang, X., Crétaux, J.-F., Hein, C., Ullah, M.A., Lina, D.H., Thiede, H., Kelly, D., Wilson, D., Topp, S.N., 2021. Monitoring Variations in Lake Water Storage with Satellite Imagery and Citizen Science. Water 13.

  • Topp, S.N., Pavelsky, T.M., Stanley, E.H., Yang, X., Griffin, C.G., Ross, M.R.V., 2021. Multi-decadal improvement in US Lake water clarity. Environmental Research Letters 16, 055025.

  • Boothroyd, R.J., Williams, R.D., Hoey, T.B., Tolentino, P.L.M., Yang, X., 2021. National-scale assessment of decadal river migration at critical bridge infrastructure in the Philippines. Science of The Total Environment 768, 144460.

  • Gardner, J.R., Yang, X., Topp, S.N., Ross, M.R.V., Altenau, E.H., Pavelsky, T.M., 2021. The Color of Rivers. Geophysical Research Letters 48, e2020GL088946.


  • Gerson, J.R., Topp, S.N., Vega, C.M., Gardner, J.R., Yang, X., Fernandez, L.E., Bernhardt, E.S., Pavelsky, T.M., 2020. Artificial lake expansion amplifies mercury pollution from gold mining. Science Advances 6, eabd4953.

  • Whittemore, A., Ross, M.R.V., Dolan, W., Langhorst, T., Yang, X., Pawar, S., Jorissen, M., Lawton, E., Januchowski-Hartley, S., Pavelsky, T., 2020. A Participatory Science Approach to Expanding Instream Infrastructure Inventories. Earth’s Future 8, e2020EF001558.

  • Flores, J.A., Wu, J.Q., Stöckle, C.O., Ewing, R.P., Yang, X., 2020. Estimating River Sediment Discharge in the Upper Mississippi River Using Landsat Imagery. Remote Sensing 12.

  • Sharma*, S., Meyer*, M.F., Culpepper*, J., Yang*, X., Hampton, S., Berger, S.A., Brousil, M.R., Fradkin, S.C., Higgins, S.N., Jankowski, K.J., Kirillin, G., Smits, A.P., Whitaker, E.C., Yousef, F., Zhang, S., 2020. Integrating Perspectives to Understand Lake Ice Dynamics in a Changing World. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 125, e2020JG005799.

  • Durand, M., Chen, C., Frasson, R.P. de M., Pavelsky, T.M., Williams, B., Yang, X., Fore, A., 2020. How will radar layover impact SWOT measurements of water surface elevation and slope, and estimates of river discharge? Remote Sensing of Environment 247, 111883.

  • Allen, G.H., Yang, X., Gardner, J.R., Holliman, J., David, C.H., Ross, M.R.V., 2020. Timing of Landsat Overpasses Effectively Captures Flow Conditions of Large Rivers. Remote Sensing 12.

  • Bowman, D.C., Norman, P.E., Pauken, M.T., Albert, S.A., Dexheimer, D., Yang, X., Krishnamoorthy, S., Komjathy, A., Cutts, J.A., 2020. Multihour Stratospheric Flights with the Heliotrope Solar Hot-Air Balloon. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 37, 1051–1066.

  • Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., Allen, G.H., 2020. The past and future of global river ice. Nature 577, 69–73.

  • Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., Allen, G.H., Donchyts, G., 2020. RivWidthCloud: An Automated Google Earth Engine Algorithm for River Width Extraction From Remotely Sensed Imagery. IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters 17, 217–221.


  • Ross, M.R.V., Topp, S.N., Appling, A.P., Yang, X., Kuhn, C., Butman, D., Simard, M., Pavelsky, T.M., 2019. AquaSat: A Data Set to Enable Remote Sensing of Water Quality for Inland Waters. Water Resources Research 55, 10012–10025.

  • Feng, D., Gleason, C.J., Yang, X., Pavelsky, T.M., 2019. Comparing Discharge Estimates Made via the BAM Algorithm in High-Order Arctic Rivers Derived Solely From Optical CubeSat, Landsat, and Sentinel-2 Data. Water Resources Research 55, 7753–7771.

  • Frasson, R.P. de M., Pavelsky, T.M., Fonstad, M.A., Durand, M.T., Allen, G.H., Schumann, G., Lion, C., Beighley, R.E., Yang, X., 2019. Global Relationships Between River Width, Slope, Catchment Area, Meander Wavelength, Sinuosity, and Discharge. Geophysical Research Letters 46, 3252–3262.

  • Bataille, C.P., Willis, A., Yang, X., Liu, X.-M., 2017. Continental igneous rock composition: A major control of past global chemical weathering. Science Advances 3, e1602183.

  • Yang, X., Rial, J.A., Reischmann, E.P., 2014. On the bipolar origin of Heinrich events. Geophysical Research Letters 41, 9080–9086.

Xiao Yang portrait