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Inundation patterns in two of the largest savanna floodplains of South America were studied by analysis of the 37-GHz polarization difference observed by the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (Nimbus-7 satellite). Flooded area was estimated at monthly intervals for January 1979 through to August 1987 using mixing models that account for the major landscape units with distinctive microwave emission characteristics. Results are presented separately for five subregions in each of the two floodplain regions to show the spatial as well as temporal variability in inundation patterns. The total area inundated during the 9 years varied between 2069 and 78 460 km(2) in the Llanos de Moxos (also spelled as Mojos; median area, 23 383 km(2)) and 1278 and 105 454 km(2) in the Llanos del Orinoco (median, 25 374 km(2)) not including the open-water area of permanent takes and river channels. The correlation between flooded area and river stage was used to extend the inundation records over a 30-year period in the Moxos (1967-97) and a 58-year period (1927-85) in the Orinoco. Interannual variability in inundation is greater in the Moxos than the Orinoco. Comparison of these data, however, with a previously published analysis of the Pantanal wetland shows that inundation patterns in these two floodplain regions are not as variable across years as they are in the Pantanal. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd

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