Global Near Real-Time MODIS and Landsat Flood Mapping and Product Delivery

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:45 AM
Daniel A Slayback1, Frederick S Policelli2, Maura M Tokay1 and G Robert Brakenridge3, (1)SSAI/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (3)CSDMS Facility, INSTAAR, Boulder, CO, United States
Flooding is the most destructive, frequent, and costly natural disaster faced by modern society, and is increasing in frequency and damage (deaths, displacements, and financial costs) as populations increase and climate change generates more extreme weather events.

When major flooding events occur, the disaster management community needs frequently updated and easily accessible information to better understand the extent of flooding and coordinate response efforts. With funding from NASA’s Applied Sciences program, we developed and are now operating a near real-time global flood mapping system to help provide flood extent information within 24-48 hours of events. The principal element of the system applies a water detection algorithm to MODIS imagery, which is processed by the LANCE (Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS) system at NASA Goddard within a few hours of satellite overpass. Using imagery from both the Terra (10:30 AM local time overpass) and Aqua (1:30 PM) platforms allows the system to deliver an initial daily assessment of flood extent by late afternoon, and more robust assessments after accumulating cloud-free imagery over several days. Cloud cover is the primary limitation in detecting surface water from MODIS imagery. Other issues include the relatively coarse scale of the MODIS imagery (250 meters) for some events, the difficulty of detecting flood waters in areas with continuous canopy cover, confusion of shadow (cloud or terrain) with water, and accurately identifying detected water as flood as opposed to normal water extent. We are working on improvements to address these limitations.

We have also begun delivery of near real time water maps at 30 m resolution from Landsat imagery. Although Landsat is not available daily globally, but only every 8 days if imagery from both operating platforms (Landsat 7 and 8) is accessed, it can provide useful higher resolution data on water extent when a clear acquisition coincides with an active flood event.

These data products are provided in various formats on our website, and also via live OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) services, and ArcGIS Online accessible web maps, allowing easy access from a variety of platforms, from desktop GIS software to web browsers on mobile phones.