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 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.

Pages