In semi-arid ecoregions of temperate zones, focused snowmelt water infiltration in topographic depressions is a key, but imperfectly understood, groundwater recharge mechanism. Routine monitoring is precluded by the abundance of depressions. We have used remote-sensing data to construct mass balances and estimate volumes of temporary ponds in the Tambov area of Russia. First, small water bodies were automatically recognized in each of a time series of high-resolution Planet Labs images taken in April and May 2021 by object-oriented supervised classification. A training set of water pixels defined in one of the latest images using a small unmanned aerial vehicle enabled high-confidence predictions of water pixels in the earlier images (Cohen's Κ = 0.99). A digital elevation model was used to estimate the ponds' water volumes, which decreased with time following a negative exponential equation. The power of the exponent did not systematically depend on the pond size. With adjustment for estimates of daily Penman evaporation, function-based interpolation of the water bodies' areas and volumes allowed calculation of daily infiltration into the depression beds. The infiltration was maximal (5-40 mm/day) at onset of spring and decreased with time during the study period. Use of the spatially variable infiltration rates improved steady-state shallow groundwater simulations.
Keywords: closed depressions; infiltration; remote sensing; temporary water bodies.