Floods

Overview

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

September 15, 2018
GFMS flood detection / intensity forecast for 9/18/18 
The GFMS is a NASA-funded experimental system using real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) and Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global (50°N - 50°S) hydrological runoff and routing model running on a 1/8th degree latitude/longitude grid. Flood detection/intensity estimates are based on 13 years of retrospective model runs with TMPA input, with flood thresholds derived for each grid location using surface water storage statistics (95th percentile plus parameters...
September 14, 2018
NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) passed over Hurricane Florence as it approached the eastern coast of the United States on Thursday, September 13, 2018.
The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument will provide a unique opportunity for studying the ecology and climate of Earth through the acquisition of global multiangle imagery on the daylit side of Earth. MISR views Earth with cameras pointed in 9 different directions. As the instrument flies overhead, each piece of Earth's surface below is successively imaged by all 9 cameras, in each of 4 wavelengths (blue, green, red, and near-infrared). NASA's Multi-angle Imaging...
August 18, 2018
Flood map for Kerala
In the maximum observed flooding map, areas in RED are flooding mapped from Copernicus Sentinel 1 SAR data provided by the European Space Agency. Areas in PURPLE are currently flooded and also flooded in previous years. Areas in BLUE are covered by a reference normal water extent. Areas in LIGHT GRAY are all previously mapped flooding, since 1999....
July 27, 2018
LAOS Dam failure
On July 25, 2018, the Sentinel-1 satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus program captured a clear image of the collapsed Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam and resulting floods. The imagery within the map viewer shows a drastic drop in the reservoir level, the impacts of which were felt on villages downstream.  NASA and SERVIR-Mekong processed satellite imagery to estimate the extent of the flooded areas, particularly along the Xe Pian River and village of Sanamxai along the Xe Khong River in Attapeu province. Since the dam failure on July 23, cloudy skies have...
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...
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...
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...
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-...
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. 
April 4, 2017
Change detection map that highlights flood waters in Peru using Sentinel-1 data
The NASA SPoRT team provided change detection products that highlight recent flood waters in Peru using Sentinel-1 data. These products were developed in conjunction with colleagues at the Alaska Satellite Facility (https://www.asf.alaska.edu/). The change detection is a simple algorithm is based detecting change that is consistent with flooding using a pre- and post-event scene. The product’s final form is a binary geotiffs and a...
August 31, 2017
Flood Proxy Map depicting areas of Southeastern Texas that are likely flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey, shown by light blue pixels.
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Flood Proxy Map depicting areas of Southeastern Texas that are likely flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey, shown by light blue pixels. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar amplitude images from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Sentinel-1 satellite, taken before (August 5, 2017) and after (August 29, 2017) Hurricane Harvey made landfall...
April 13, 2017
SAR flood maps of 2017 New Zealand floods.
Below are images of a SAR Flood Map derived from ESA Sentinel-1 data for April 4, 2017. Flood regions were detected by measuring the difference in radar images acquired on April 4 and March 11 by Sentinel-1. Newer products will be developed when the data becomes available from ESA. On the KML file, red areas indicate flood presence. The point of contact for this data is: robert.brakenridge@colorado.edu Layers, top to bottom: Light Blue is reference water extent mapped via NASA 90 m (spatial resolution) SWBD. Red is flood water...
April 11, 2017
Flood extent map from the 2017 floods in Argentina.
This is a draft map using two (Terra and Aqua) NASA MODIS WorldView scenes from April 11, 2017. Water was classified using an "isodata" unsupervised classification method (7-17 classes, three iterations, three classes were combined into one "water" class). A before scene is shown above for comparison purposes, but no change detection approach has been used so far. There are abundant "false water" areas shown; this map will be revised to remove these errors. Data processing of Sentinel 1 SAR scenes is in progress. Many rivers in this dry region of the Pampas are ephemeral and ofter without...
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images of Bermuda Flooding from Hurricane Irma 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.
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Florida 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 Septmber 12th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
September 12, 2017
GPM IMERG precipitation totals from hurricane Irma 9/5/17 - 9/12/17
Hurricane Irma dropped extremely heavy rain at times during it’s trek from near the Cape Verdi Islands through the northern Leeward islands, Cuba and the southeastern United States. Over 16 inches (406 mm) of rain was reported in Guantanamo, in the easternmost province of Cuba, as the category five hurricane battered the country. Almost 16 inches (406 mm) of rain was also reported at Fort Pierce on the eastern side of Florida. Charleston, South Carolina reported 6...
September 11, 2017
GFMS flood detection map from hurricane Irma on 9/11/17
Inland flooding from Irma currently over much of Florida and into southeast Georgia; expanding further north on Tuesday  
August 31, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Houston 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 August 31st, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center
September 8, 2017
Flood forecast map for Hurricane Irma
Some heavy rainfall in Haiti and Domincan Republic produced river flooding as Irma skirted to north of island. The above image shows the NASA GEOS-5 rainfall forecast over next three days with Irma tracking up center of Florida peninsula with maximum rainfall from southern tip and along east coast with amounts over 300 mm (12”).  Also seen are rainfall tracks of Katia...
September 1, 2017
Financial Loss Potential Index for Hurricane Harvey v3, dated 1 Sep 2017
This Financial Loss  Potential Index map combines extent of flooding and depth information and overlays it with exposed property values located in the flooded areas. The Financial Loss  Potential Index represents the concentration of high flood hazard and/or high value property locations at a grid level and can be used to validate loss estimates as well as review flood claims.  The data is posted at 500m grid cells. The property exposure...

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