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

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...
March 27, 2017
An inundation map of Piura province produced using the Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS) on 3/26/17.
An inundation map of Piura province produced using the Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS). The GFMS is a NASA-funded experimental system using real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global hydrological runoff and routing model.
February 23, 2017
IMERG rainfall estimates for the period from Feb. 15 at 00:30 UTC (Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. EST) to Feb. 23 at 23:00 UTC (6 p.m. EST).
NASA has estimated rainfall from the Pineapple Express over the coastal regions southwestern Oregon and northern California from the series of storms in February, 2017. IMERG rainfall estimates for the period from Feb. 15 at 00:30 UTC (Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. EST) to Feb. 23 at 23:00 UTC (6 p.m. EST). The initial surge was responsible for bringing part of the rainfall (up to about 2 to 3 inches) was seen over the coastal regions southwestern Oregon and northern California....
January 7, 2017
GOES and IMERG satellite image of atmospheric river hitting the US west coast.
Video of Atmospheric River Slams California   After more than four years of drought, Californians may wonder where the current rain is coming from. Using satellites, NASA scientists have a unique view of the sources of precipitation, and how it reaches the western United States. Rain is often carried by narrow tendrils of moisture called atmospheric rivers that occur all over the world, shown here in white. The atmospheric rivers that affect the western United States are known as the Pineapple Express because they transport water vapor from as far south as Hawaii to California...
January 9, 2017
This visible image of the storm system affecting the U.S. Pacific Coast was taken from NOAA's GOES-West satellite on Jan. 9, 2017 at 8:35 a.m. EST (1345 UTC). Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Extreme rain events have been affecting California and snow has blanketed the Pacific Northwest. NASA/NOAA's GOES Project created a satellite animation showing the storms affecting the region from January 6 through 9, 2017, and NASA's Aqua satellite captured a look at the snowfall.  This visible image of the storm system affecting the U.S. Pacific Coast was taken from NOAA's GOES-West satellite on Jan. 9, 2017 at 8:35 a.m. EST (1345 UTC). Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project At NASA's...
January 13, 2017
CIRA total precipitable water
The state of California has been suffering from a multi-year drought that has severely depleted water resources and reservoir levels. Recent winters have failed to produce precipitation and mountain snows to replenish the losses during the dry summers. However, the situation has rapidly changed this winter, particularly in the past week when multiple atmospheric rivers have impacted the state. An atmospheric river is a concentrated channel of deep moisture that is transported from the tropical Pacific Oceanic regions to the West Coast of the United States.  These events are often associated...
January 12, 2017
GPM IMERG precipitation accumulation from 1/7/17 - 1/10/17.
GPM IMERG precipitation accumulation from 1/7/17 - 1/10/17. Click here to view an animated GIF. An atmospheric river has been flooding California and other parts of the western United States with rain and snow for nearly a week. Precipitation could be measured in feet rather than inches in some locations, and rivers and valleys...
January 12, 2017
Flood Extent from MODIS Aqua / Terra as of 1/12/17.
Significant amounts of rain in early January have caused significant and widespread flooding in southern Thailand. Learn more about the flood recovery efforts on the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) website Flood Extent from MODIS Aqua / Terra as of 1/12/17. MODIS suface water extent data from 1/12/17. View this data on an interactive map: http://projectmekongnasa.appspot.com/...
January 10, 2017
MODIS flood map for California flooding January 2017
Static MODIS flood maps are available here: http://oas.gsfc.nasa.gov/floodmap/getTile.php?location=130W040N&day=11&year=2017&product=2 Interactive ArcGIS MODIS and Landsat flood maps available here: ...
January 9, 2017
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of flooded land near the Pra River on January 9, 2017.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of flooded land near the Pra River on January 9, 2017. This second image shows the same area on February 2, 2014, when waters were lower. Several days of heavy rainfall swamped much of southern Thailand in January 2017. While monsoon-related floods are common in Thailand, the wet season usually ends in...
January 11, 2017
GFMS flood detection map from January 8th 2017
Northern and Central California are under flood threat from an "atmospheric river" in the Pacific.  Some flooding has already occurred.  Rainfall forecasts below show a pattern extending from ocean and the effect of orography.  A forecasted flood pattern from GFMS for Sat., Sun. and Monday is shown in next three figures. The last chart shows forecasted streamflow on American River upstream from Sacramento (near Fair Oaks streamgauge, 38.57N, 121.36W) showing very high values peaking on Monday, but with continuing high values after that (75 cu. m/s is flood...
January 11, 2017
TMPA rainfall anomalies for the one month period ending on 10 January 2017
California, which has long been suffering through a strong, multi-year drought, is finally beginning to see some much needed relief as a result of a recent series of storms that are part of a weather pattern known as the “Pineapple Express.” The Pineapple Express is known as an atmospheric river. A large, slow-moving low pressure center off of the West Coast taps into tropical moisture originating from as far south as the Hawaiian Islands. This moisture is then channeled northeast by the subtropical jet steam towards the West Coast where the topography aids in squeezing out the moisture as...
October 9, 2016
 On October 9, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of floodwaters laden with sediment pouring out from several rivers in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Though its winds had weakened as it moved north, Hurricane Matthew delivered record-breaking rainfall to parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. In many coastal areas, the storm dumped well over 12 inches (30 centimeters) of water. On October 9, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s ...
January 20, 2016
To create this display, satellite data are obtained by the Flood Observatory, processed to detect water/land boundaries, and analyzed to produce current surface water extent in vector GIS format.
To create this display, satellite data are obtained by the Flood Observatory, processed to detect water/land boundaries, and analyzed to produce current surface water extent in vector GIS format.  The Observatory also accepts GIS flood inundation limits from other sources and incorporates this information with permission of the authors. The date of last update is shown on each map. A large scale Geotif version is also available. Color coding for previous flooding: 2015, 2014,...
August 15, 2016
NASA Analyzes Deadly Louisiana Flooding
Record-setting rainfall and flooding in southern Louisiana have been calculated at NASA with data from satellites. An extremely severe rainfall event hit the states of Louisiana and southern  Mississippi when a very slow moving low pressure system continuously pulled tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. NASA's IMERG data from Aug. 8 to Aug. 15, 2016 showed over 20 inches (508 mm) of rainfall was estimated in large areas of southeastern Louisiana and extreme...
October 7, 2016
Satellite-based measurements of rainfall that fell on Haiti from September 28 to October 7, 2016, as compiled by NASA.
On October 4, 2016, Matthew slammed into southwestern Haiti near Les Anglais as a category 4 hurricane. Over the next few days, the slow-moving storm dropped upwards of 800 millimeters (30 inches) across parts of the impoverished nation. While aid workers and government officials have only begun to tally the damage, preliminary assessments suggest that more than 800 people have died as a result of the storm....
August 12, 2016
GPM gets a closer look at Louisiana floods
Twice on August 12, 2016 GPM flew over a massive rainstorm that flooded large portions of Louisiana. The flooding was some of the worst ever in the state, resulting in a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in the wake of this unprecedented event.  Throughout the course of August 12 (UTC) GPM captured the internal structure of the storm twice and GPM IMERG measured the rainfall accumulation on the ground.  Video of GPM Provides a Closer Look at the Louisiana Floods   NASA's GPM satellite is designed to measure rainfall...
August 14, 2016
GFMS Inundation Estimates
Routing and inundation calculations at 1 km resolution give a more detailed estimate for flooding location and depth.  Results for today show flooding along Mississippi (although protected by levees, etc.) and areas of flooding in southwest LA and into Texas. GFMS Inundation Estimates Streamflow and Inundation at 1 km Resolution Maps of streamflow and inundation allow finer diagnosis of locations of high streamflow and flooding.  In this expansion of map from previous slide areas most...
August 14, 2016
GFMS flood detection / intensity
Heavy rain  from a tropical system—over 300mm in the last week, with most of that coming in the last three days has caused heavy flooding in Louisiana.  The Global Flood Monitoring System (GFMS) has been used to analyze the event in real-time.  These slides summarize the results.  The images in this slide show the rainfall amounts as of Sunday (14 August) and the pattern of floods at the 12 km resolution.  The following images show the pattern of evolution during the last few days and the forecast for the next few days. ...
January 7, 2016
This map highlights preliminary remote sensing priority areas for collection.
In anticipation of severe flooding likely to occur across portions of the central U.S., FEMA requires access to unclassified commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to ascertain flood extents. It is estimated that flooding will likely occur through this weekend (January 3, 2016). In addition, FEMA requests access to the raw SAR data collected as part of this effort in order for us (FEMA) to provide value-added analysis/flood extent delineation. 

Pages