Floods

Overview

Learn how NASA is preparing for the 2020 U.S. flood season.

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.

NASA Disasters Mapping Portal - U.S. Floods Dashboard

View fullscreen on the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal

The NASA Disasters Mapping Portal is a web platform that provides access to near real-time and value added data products in geographic information system (GIS) format, through web applications, map layers, and API's. The Mapping Portal provides NASA data in a beneficial format for emergency managers and GIS specialists within local, state, federal and international disaster response agencies. The Flood Dashboard shown above brings together multiple soil moisture and flood products from NASA, the National Weather Service and USGS to give a more complete picture of potential flooding in the United States. 

Flood Risk, Resilience and Response

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

October 19, 2020
Comparison of KOMPSAT-2 and KOMPSAT-3A water extent maps with Landsat-8 water extent maps, using the normalized water difference index (NDWI). Credit: KOMPSAT-2 © KARI (2007), KOMPSAT-3A © KARI (2019), Landsat-8 image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Surve
Youn-Soo Kim, principal researcher at the Satellite Application Division of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), recently completed a year-long sabbatical visit at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in which he collaborated closely with the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program. Kim is a member of the Satellite Application Division of the National Satellite Operation & Application Center at KARI. There, he helps manage satellite data generated by the KOMPSAT and Geo-KOMPSAT...
September 3, 2020
Photograph from the International Space Station taken on July 27, 2020, showing high water levels in the river that passes through the town of Puerto Lopez, Colombia. Credit: Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space
On July 27, 2020, the International Space Station passed over the Orinoquia Nature Region in Colombia, allowing astronauts to capture photographs showing the impacts of recent flooding rainfall in the region. These photographs were then georeferenced by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Flight Center and sent to the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) of Colombia by coordinators from the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program to aid in identifying the extent and impact of the flooding....
September 1, 2020
Screenshot from the prototype HydroSAR Viewer app, which was developed during the hackathon to support rapid sharing of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)-based flood mapping products with end users. In the future all app layers could be made available throug
Members of the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program recently participated in the SERVIR-GEOGloWS Hackathon, a virtual app development event for participants to create geospatial and scientific web applications related to water sustainability. The Hackathon was virtually co-hosted by SERVIR, a joint venture between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide state-of-the-art Earth observing data to improve environmental decision-making in developing nations, the Group on Earth Observations...
July 23, 2020
This Building Exposure Map shows the location and estimated value of buildings in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 2020. Credit: METEOR Project Consortium
Researchers from the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program are working with building exposure datasets developed by the “Modelling Exposure Through Earth Observation Routines” (METEOR) project to estimate the number and value of buildings in Africa affected by flooding rainfall in the spring of 2020.  METEOR is co-funded through the second iteration of the UK Space Agency...
May 22, 2020
This natural-color image shows flooding across Midland County on May 20th, 2020 as observed by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On May 17, 2020, heavy rain began pouring over the Tri-Cities region of central Michigan and, after two days, it provoked significant flooding in Midland County. The accumulating rainfall led to catastrophic dam failures that swelled rivers and streams and inundated several nearby communities. The governor ordered more than 10,000 residents of Edenville and Sanford to evacuate. This natural-color image...
June 21, 2019
This map shows water extent along the Missouri River and surrounding regions on May 29th, 2019. Areas with likely flooding detected are shown in red.
The NASA Disasters Program responded to a request from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to provide water extent maps for the regions affected by the recent flooding rainfall in the central U.S. Maps were generated using Sentinel 1A/B satellite overpasses of the central U.S. from 5/22/19 to 6/17/19...
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 SpectroRadiometer (...
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. The...
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 Center.
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 inches (152.4 mm...
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  
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 over southeast Mexico...
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 data is...
September 1, 2017
SMAP-derived flood map of Texas from Hurricane Harvey
Video of SMAP-derived Flood Map of Texas from Hurricane Harvey 8/25/17 - 8/27/17 This animation depicts the flooded areas of Texas from August 25th – August 27th 2017 at 9km resolution and 3 hour intervals. The product shown is derived from SMAP data with a new algorithm developed by the post-flood crop damage assessment project (RF-CLASS system) funded the NASA Earth Science Disatsers Program. Please note this is an experimental product without full validation. 
September 1, 2017
Sea surface temperature map of Harvey acquired August 30th 2017
Acquired August 23rd 2017. Acquired August 30th 2017. Hurricane Harvey dropped unfathomable amounts of rainwater on Houston and southern Texas from August 25–30, 2017. The potent category 4 hurricane and long-lived tropical storm also churned up the Gulf of Mexico with its winds and storm surges, dispersing warm surface water and mixing up cooler water from the depths. All of that falling...

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