NASA's New Tool Helps Predict Areas Most at Risk of Flooding from Space

Summary: NASA has developed a new predictive modeling tool that uses satellite data to identify areas at risk of flooding caused by extreme rainfall. The tool, called the Global Flood Monitoring and Prediction (GFMP) system, has been successfully tested in North America, Europe, and Asia, and is now available to help governments and agencies issue timely warnings, prepare emergency responses, and mitigate the impacts of future floods.

The Details:

Global flood disasters are becoming more frequent and severe, impacting millions of people and causing tens of billions of dollars in financial losses every year. Although floods are partially driven by precipitation, they are also influenced by additional factors, including terrain, land cover, and population density. These factors ultimately affect flood severity and impact, but their dynamic complexity makes it challenging to predict and prepare for flood events.

To address this problem, NASA has developed the GFMP system, which utilizes satellite precipitation estimates in combination with datasets of land cover, situational awareness, and other precipitation-related properties. The system employs a machine-learning-based predictive modeling approach that determines the likelihood of flooding at high spatial and temporal resolution.

The model generates a flood probability map overlaid on land cover and population density maps to provide a comprehensive view of the areas that are at risk of flooding and how severe that risk is. According to NASA, the map "can provide information that helps local, regional, and national authorities, as well as other partner organizations, issue timely warnings and develop emergency response plans."

During a period of intense rainfall in Southeast Asia in August 2022, the GFMP system successfully detected and provided early warnings for the flooding of four different countries in the region (Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam). The data and maps produced by the system were distributed to government agencies in partnership with the Asia Disaster Preparedness Center to help authorities develop emergency plans and respond to the flooding quickly and effectively.

In addition to the GFMP system, NASA's Climate Adaptation Science Investigator (CASI) team is working on several flood-related research and application projects. One of these projects aims to forecast flooding and improve flood preparedness in the southeastern United States. Another, called the Global Flood Observing System, attempts to coordinate and enhance existing flood monitoring systems around the world.

Conclusion: With the new GFMP system, NASA is helping governments and agencies better understand the intricacies of flooding and bring much-needed relief to vulnerable regions. By providing advanced warning and comprehensive risk maps, the tool enhances preparedness and can potentially save lives and livelihoods in the face of flooding events. As the climate crisis continues to exacerbate extreme weather events, such predictive modeling tools will likely become increasingly vital to our efforts to mitigate these impacts.

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