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

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 500 mm (~ 20”) around...
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 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 blue...
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 Johnson Space...
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 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. 
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.
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 of St. Louis. The...
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.   
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
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 amplitude images. The colored pixels...
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 14, 2017
IMERG precipitation accumulation from New Zealand.
Two extra-tropical cyclones recently dropped very heavy rain over New Zealand, Debbie and Cook. As Cook's remnants continue to move away, NASA analyzed the heavy rainfall generated from the double extra-tropical punch. Tropical cyclone Debbie dumped extreme amounts of rain over the northeastern coast of Australia when it hit the Queensland coast on March 28, 2017. After drenching northeastern Australia Extra-tropical Cyclone Debbie transported a river of water over New...
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 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 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...
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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