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 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....
September 1, 2017
On August 31, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Texas coast and the Houston metropolitan area.
On August 31, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Texas coast and the Houston metropolitan area. Note the brown rivers and bays, full of flood water from Hurricane Harvey. Along the coast, muddy, sediment-laden waters from inland pour into a Gulf of Mexico that also was churned up by...
August 27, 2017
Flood extent map created by the ARIA team at NASA-JPL/Caltech, derived from the ALOS-2 ScanSAR data acquired 8/27/17 (~1:30PM Central Time) over Texas including Houston.
The above image is a screenshot of the flood extent map created by the ARIA team at NASA-JPL/Caltech, derived from the ALOS-2 ScanSAR data acquired on 8/27/17 (~1:30PM Central Time) over Texas including Houston. This Flood Proxy Map (FPM) covers an area of 350-by-350 km and is derived from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) ALOS-2 PALSAR-2 pre- (2017-07-30) and post-event (2017-08-27) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) amplitude images. The pixels in light...
August 30, 2017
Surface Flooding from Hurricane Harvey Shown in New SMAP Imagery
A new series of images generated with data from NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite illustrate the surface flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey from before its initial landfall through August 27, 2017. The SMAP observations detect the proportion of the ground covered by surface water within the satellite's field of view. The sequence of images depicts successive satellite orbital swath observations showing the surface water conditions on August 22, before Harvey's...
August 29, 2017
Astronaut Randy Bresnik took this photo of Tropical Storm Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 28 at 1:27 p.m. CDT.
NASA has a lot of resources providing information on Tropical Storm Harvey as it continues to drop tremendous, flooding rainfall on Texas and Louisiana. Satellites like NASA's Aqua satellite and platforms like aircraft and the International Space Station continue to provide various kinds of data on the storm. "NASA focuses on developing new research capabilities that can be used by our partners in the operational and response communities," said Dalia Kirschbaum, Research Physical Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "While we continue to innovate in the...
August 29, 2017
Flood estimates from GFMS using IMERG input show evolution of flooding over 8/26-8/29, with expansion from Houston area to southeastern Texas and Louisiana.
Flood estimates from GFMS using IMERG input show evolution of flooding over the last few days, with expansion from Houston area to southeastern Texas and Louisiana.    Satellite-based rainfall (GPM IMERG) from now Tropical Storm Harvey over the last three days compares fairly well with raingauges, except for peak values.  IMERG has peaks of about...
August 28, 2017
GPM IMERG precipitation totals for Hurricane Harvey from August 21st - August 27th 2017.
Despite its earlier demise, after rejuvinating over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey has become a major weather maker as it unleashes historical flooding over parts of coastal Texas. Harvey began on the 17th of August as a weak tropical storm about 250 miles (~400 km) east of Barbados in the Leeward Islands. Over the next two days, Harvey continued moving steadily westward passing through the Leeward Islands as a still weak tropical storm and entered into the east central Caribbean. On the 19th, Harvey succumbed to the effects of northeasterly wind shear over the...
August 9, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Venezuela 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 9st, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA...
June 22, 2017
SAR map for 2017 Uruguay Flooding. Credit: Batuhan Osmanoglu (GSFC) and Rashied (JPL).
On May 24, 2017, a series of extreme rainfall events began impacting the west and northwest regions or Uruguay. These rains caused severe flooding in the Departments of Salto, Paysandú and Artigas.  SAR floods maps. The dates and locations depicted in these images are as follows: Upper left: Salto - 6/14/2017 Upper Right: Itaqui - 6/9/2017 Lower Left: Colón - 6/14/2017 Lower Right: closeup for Itaqui - 6/9/2017
June 10, 2017
SNPP/VIIRS Automatic flood detection may in Uruguay from May 27 - June 10 2017
On May 24, 2017, a series of extreme rainfall events began impacting the west and northwest regions or Uruguay. These rains caused severe flooding in the Departments of Salto, Paysandú and Artigas.
June 16, 2017
Flood detection / intensity map for Uruguay from the GFMS
On May 24, 2017, a series of extreme rainfall events began impacting the west and northwest regions or Uruguay. These rains caused severe flooding in the Departments of Salto, Paysandú and Artigas. 
May 9, 2017
Landsat 7 image of flooding near near St. Peters, Missouri on May 9th, 2017.
Landsat 7 image of flooding near near St. Peters, Missouri on May 9th, 2017. Landsat 8 image showing the same area on April 28, 2016 for comparison. In late April and early May 2017, heavy rains in the Midwest gave way to rising rivers and flooding. These false-color images from Landsat satellites show one affected area near St. Peters, Missouri, northwest...
May 9, 2017
GPM IMERG 7 day rainfall accumulation ending on May 7th, 2017 for the Quebec region.
GPM IMERG 7 day rainfall accumulation ending on May 7th, 2017 for the Quebec region. 1-, 3- and 7-day accumulations are available as shapefile and GeoTIFF files for the affected areas: https://pmm.nasa.gov/precip-apps Time series of the affected areas are available through NASA Giovanni: https://giovanni.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/giovanni/  
May 9, 2017
GFMS flood detection / intensity maps for the Quebec region on May 1st, 5th, and 8th 2017.
GFMS flood detection / intensity maps for the Quebec region on May 1st, 5th, and 8th 2017. GFMS flood inundation map for May 8th, 2017 (top) and flood forecast for May 12th, 2017 for the Quebec region.
May 8, 2017
MODIS true-color image of floods in Quebec from May 8, 2017.
Its been pretty overcast over much of eastern Canada the past several days - all of Quebec, and eastern Ontario, as in the above MODIS true-color image. Clouds have shifted slightly, but not dramatically over the past few days. Central Ontario is clear, but we dont see much there - there's a spot of "flooding" north of Toronto (by Barrie), but this is simply a wetland that is not in the MOD44W layer so shows up as flood.   
April 7, 2017
Example ISS image from Peru 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 April 7th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
May 3, 2017
MODIS image of flooding in Missouri.
Terra MODIS image of Missouri acquired on April 25th, 2017. Terra MODIS image of Missouri floods acquired on May 2nd, 2017. On May 2, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this ...
April 17, 2017
GFMS flood detection map for 2017 Argentina floods
Overview of northern Argentina floods on April 17th 2017  Model inundation estimates at 1 km. Forecasted rainfall for the next 3 days. Resulting flood forecast overview for April 20th 2017...
April 11, 2017
2017 New Zealand flood forecast from the GFMS.
The GFMS uses real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global hydrological runoff and routing model.  In addition, the latest maps of instantaneous precipitation and totals from the last day, three days and seven days are displayed. 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.  Streamflow, surface water storage, and inundation variables are also calculated at 1km...

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