Floods are far and away the most common natural disaster worldwide and account for the most deaths. The deadliest disaster of the 20th century was the China floods of 1931, which by many accounts resulted in more than a million deaths.

In the United States, floods account for more deaths than any other natural disaster; resulting in more loss of life and property than other types of hazards and severe weather events. This is due to the multifaceted nature of flood events. For instance, the US Eastern and Gulf coasts are particularly vulnerable to storm surges from hurricanes, while the Northeast and North Central U.S., and some areas of the Western U.S. are more susceptible to excessive rainfall, snow/ice melt, and dam failures. In Alaska the Upper Midwest and other areas, river ice jams can also cause severe flooding.

Recent studies have highlighted how local investments in simple flood preparations often experience 70% less property damage when flooding occurred. But achieving such benefits on a global scale requires full understanding and characterizations of flood exposure. NASA’s Disasters Response Program, combined with its fleet of Earth Observing satellites, is helping scientists and decision-makers improve prediction of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from flood disasters.

Our Agency’s flood preparedness and response capabilities include satellite observations, data systems, and modeling capabilities divided into two core areas:

  1. Global Flood Prediction and Warning (weather prediction coupled with increasingly accurate satellite observations and hydrological models):
  2. Global Flood Mapping and Damage Assessment (from the observed satellite time series record of flood events, and also from modeling):

Latest Updates

April 18, 2018
GPM IMERG rainfall accumulation from 4/10/18 - 4/16/18.
Video of A Week of Heavy Rainfall Over Hawaiian Islands A low pressure trough moving slowly westward through the northwestern Hawaiian Islands caused destructive flooding and mudslides over the past weekend. The trough disrupted the normal northeast trade winds flow north of Oahu on April 12, 2018. This caused extremely heavy rainfall as the trough deepened and moved very slowly over Kauai during the weekend. The 28.1 inches (713 mm) of rain reported in Hanalei within a 24 hour period was close to a record for the small town on Kauai's northern coast. Almost 32.4 inches (822 mm) of rain was...
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Hispaniola flooding 2017
Click here to view the full image collection and download  high quality georeferenced images. This collection of digital camera images was taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station on September 12th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
January 11, 2017
 ARIA Flood Proxy Map for the floods in Northern California and Nevada on January 8th, 2017.
 ARIA Flood Proxy Map for the floods in Northern California and Nevada on January 8th, 2017.  Flood Proxy Map (FPM) covering an area of 155-by-224 miles (250-by-360 km), derived from Sentinel-1's pre- (2016-12-15 6 PM PST) and during-the-event (2017-01-08 6 PM PST) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) amplitude images. The colored pixels represent areas of potential flood (Red: flooded vegetation, Blue: open water flood). Different irrigation conditions on the two data...
April 17, 2017
SAR flood extent map for Aukland New Zealand.
Following a Sentinel-1 acquisition over eastern North Island, covering Auckland on April 14, 2017 at 17:37h UTC, a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) flood proxy map (FPM)  was developed as a KMZ overlay (available for download here) This FPM covers an area of 175-by-500 km, derived from Sentinel-1's pre- (2016-04-02) and post-event (2017-04-14) SAR...
April 12, 2017
Sentinel-1 Comparison of 2017 New Zealand floods.
Change detection map of recent flooding in New Zealand 3/11/17 vs. 4/11/17 using Sentinel-1 data. Red areas indicate flooding.  Please ignore the change detection that is observed over the open ocean - the product does not incorporate a water mask at this time.