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

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. 
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...
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.