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

June 21, 2019
This map shows water extent along the Missouri River and surrounding regions on May 29th, 2019. Areas with likely flooding detected are shown in red.
The NASA Disasters Program responded to a request from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to provide water extent maps for the regions affected by the recent flooding rainfall in the central U.S. Maps were generated using Sentinel 1A/B satellite overpasses of the central U.S. from 5/22/19 to 6/17/19...
September 15, 2018
GFMS flood detection / intensity forecast for 9/18/18 
The GFMS is a NASA-funded experimental system using real-time TRMM Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) and Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) precipitation information as input to a quasi-global (50°N - 50°S) hydrological runoff and routing model running on a 1/8th degree latitude/longitude grid. 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 (95th percentile plus parameters...
September 14, 2018
NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) passed over Hurricane Florence as it approached the eastern coast of the United States on Thursday, September 13, 2018.
The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument will provide a unique opportunity for studying the ecology and climate of Earth through the acquisition of global multiangle imagery on the daylit side of Earth. MISR views Earth with cameras pointed in 9 different directions. As the instrument flies overhead, each piece of Earth's surface below is successively imaged by all 9 cameras, in each of 4 wavelengths (blue, green, red, and near-infrared). NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (...
August 18, 2018
Flood map for Kerala
In the maximum observed flooding map, areas in RED are flooding mapped from Copernicus Sentinel 1 SAR data provided by the European Space Agency. Areas in PURPLE are currently flooded and also flooded in previous years. Areas in BLUE are covered by a reference normal water extent. Areas in LIGHT GRAY are all previously mapped flooding, since 1999. The...
July 27, 2018
LAOS Dam failure
On July 25, 2018, the Sentinel-1 satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus program captured a clear image of the collapsed Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam and resulting floods. The imagery within the map viewer shows a drastic drop in the reservoir level, the impacts of which were felt on villages downstream.  NASA and SERVIR-Mekong processed satellite imagery to estimate the extent of the flooded areas, particularly along the Xe Pian River and village of Sanamxai along the Xe Khong River in Attapeu province. Since the dam failure on July 23, cloudy skies have...
April 18, 2018
GPM IMERG rainfall accumulation from 4/10/18 - 4/16/18.
Video of A Week of Heavy Rainfall Over Hawaiian Islands A low pressure trough moving slowly westward through the northwestern Hawaiian Islands caused destructive flooding and mudslides over the past weekend. The trough disrupted the normal northeast trade winds flow north of Oahu on April 12, 2018. This caused extremely heavy rainfall as the trough deepened and moved very slowly over Kauai during the weekend. The 28.1 inches (713 mm) of rain reported in Hanalei within a 24 hour period was close to a record for the small town on Kauai's northern coast. Almost 32.4 inches (822 mm) of...
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Hispaniola 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 September 12th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images of Bermuda Flooding from Hurricane Irma 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 September 12th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
September 12, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Florida 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 Septmber 12th, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center.
September 12, 2017
GPM IMERG precipitation totals from hurricane Irma 9/5/17 - 9/12/17
Hurricane Irma dropped extremely heavy rain at times during it’s trek from near the Cape Verdi Islands through the northern Leeward islands, Cuba and the southeastern United States. Over 16 inches (406 mm) of rain was reported in Guantanamo, in the easternmost province of Cuba, as the category five hurricane battered the country. Almost 16 inches (406 mm) of rain was also reported at Fort Pierce on the eastern side of Florida. Charleston, South Carolina reported 6 inches (152.4 mm...
September 11, 2017
GFMS flood detection map from hurricane Irma on 9/11/17
Inland flooding from Irma currently over much of Florida and into southeast Georgia; expanding further north on Tuesday  
September 8, 2017
Flood forecast map for Hurricane Irma
Some heavy rainfall in Haiti and Domincan Republic produced river flooding as Irma skirted to north of island. The above image shows the NASA GEOS-5 rainfall forecast over next three days with Irma tracking up center of Florida peninsula with maximum rainfall from southern tip and along east coast with amounts over 300 mm (12”).  Also seen are rainfall tracks of Katia over southeast Mexico...
September 1, 2017
Financial Loss Potential Index for Hurricane Harvey v3, dated 1 Sep 2017
This Financial Loss  Potential Index map combines extent of flooding and depth information and overlays it with exposed property values located in the flooded areas. The Financial Loss  Potential Index represents the concentration of high flood hazard and/or high value property locations at a grid level and can be used to validate loss estimates as well as review flood claims.  The data is posted at 500m grid cells. The property exposure data is...
September 1, 2017
SMAP-derived flood map of Texas from Hurricane Harvey
Video of SMAP-derived Flood Map of Texas from Hurricane Harvey 8/25/17 - 8/27/17 This animation depicts the flooded areas of Texas from August 25th – August 27th 2017 at 9km resolution and 3 hour intervals. The product shown is derived from SMAP data with a new algorithm developed by the post-flood crop damage assessment project (RF-CLASS system) funded the NASA Earth Science Disatsers Program. Please note this is an experimental product without full validation. 
September 1, 2017
Sea surface temperature map of Harvey acquired August 30th 2017
Acquired August 23rd 2017. Acquired August 30th 2017. Hurricane Harvey dropped unfathomable amounts of rainwater on Houston and southern Texas from August 25–30, 2017. The potent category 4 hurricane and long-lived tropical storm also churned up the Gulf of Mexico with its winds and storm surges, dispersing warm surface water and mixing up cooler water from the depths. All of that falling...
September 1, 2017
On August 31, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Texas coast and the Houston metropolitan area.
On August 31, 2017, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Texas coast and the Houston metropolitan area. Note the brown rivers and bays, full of flood water from Hurricane Harvey. Along the coast, muddy, sediment-laden waters from inland pour into a Gulf of Mexico that also was churned up by the relentless storm.
August 31, 2017
Flood Proxy Map depicting areas of Southeastern Texas that are likely flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey, shown by light blue pixels.
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this Flood Proxy Map depicting areas of Southeastern Texas that are likely flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey, shown by light blue pixels. The map is derived from synthetic aperture radar amplitude images from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Sentinel-1 satellite, taken before (August 5, 2017) and after (August 29, 2017) Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The map...
August 31, 2017
ISS Georeferenced Digital Camera Images from Houston 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 31st, 2017, then manually georeferenced by members of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA Johnson Space Center
August 30, 2017
Surface Flooding from Hurricane Harvey Shown in New SMAP Imagery
A new series of images generated with data from NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite illustrate the surface flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey from before its initial landfall through August 27, 2017. The SMAP observations detect the proportion of the ground covered by surface water within the satellite's field of view. The sequence of images depicts successive satellite orbital swath observations showing the surface water conditions on August 22, before Harvey's landfall (left...
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...

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