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

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...
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 ...
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 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...
August 15, 2016
Suomi NPP VIIRS Day-Night Band Detects Power Outages
The NASA GSFC Disaster Team utilized a new algorithm for producing night time optical data, which was used as one of the assets for assessing impact of the Louisiana floods at the request of FEMA. In this case, the data was used for determining power outages as a means of mapping impact zones. (NASA Direct Readout Lab).   Top: During flood event, Aug 15th, 2016; Bottom: Before event, May 7th, 2016. A similar product developed by NASA MSFC to difference images such as...
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. ...
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...
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,...
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. 
October 23, 2015
Hurricane Patricia as seen from the International Space Station on Friday afternoon, October 23, 2015
The ISS sees Hurricane Patricia.  Hurricane Patricia as seen from the International Space Station on Friday afternoon, October 23, 2015   Wind speed and direction near the ocean surface, as measured on October 23 by the ISS-RapidScat. Brighter shades of blue represent stronger surface winds.

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