NASA satellites detect possible disastrous flooding months in advance, finds research

Sponsored by


IRVINE, CA, July 8, 2014 -- According to new research from UC Irvine, data from NASA satellites can greatly improve predictions of how likely a river basin is to overflowing months before it actually does. The use of such data, which capture a much fuller picture of how water is accumulating, could result in earlier flood warnings, potentially saving lives and property.

A case study of the catastrophic 2011 Missouri River floods demonstrated that factoring into hydrologic models the total water storage information from NASA's Gravity Recovery & Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission -- including groundwater accumulation below the surface -- could have increased regional flood warning lead times from two months to as long as five months.

A review of the 2011 Columbia River floods found that warnings could have been issued three months before they occurred. Comprehensive underground measurements are not currently part of predictive models, which typically take into account river flow rates and some snowfall amounts.

"GRACE data contain important hydrologic information that is not currently being utilized to estimate regional flood potential," said lead author J.T. Reager, who did the work as a UCI postdoctoral researcher and recently joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a research scientist. "This could significantly increase flood prediction lead times within large river basins."

Inland flooding causes an average of 133 deaths and $4 billion in property losses per year in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service. Earlier flood predictions could help water managers better plan for possible water diversion and evacuation strategies.

The two GRACE satellites provide a means to observe monthly variations in total water storage within large river basins based on measurements of tiny changes in Earth's gravitational field: When the amount of water stored in a region increases, the gravitational pull from that area increases proportionately -- which the satellites can detect.

"These data can show us when river basins have been filling with water over several months," said senior author Jay Famiglietti, a UCI Earth system scientist who's on leave to be JPL's senior water scientist. "We're not talking about actual flooding but about the saturation level of the ground and its predisposition to flooding. When it finally rains and the basin is full, there is nowhere else for the water to go."

See also:

"NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement Initiative Aims to Enhance Water Resource Management from Space"

"Unique NASA film illustrates Earth's water journey, precipitation research initiative"


Sponsored by

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Water Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox or Mailbox

Subscribe to one of our magazines or email newsletters today at no cost and receive the latest information.


EPA finalizes rule to reduce pollutants in waterways discharged from steam electric power plants

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that will reduce the discharge of toxic pollutants into America's waterways from steam electric power plants by 1.4 billion pounds annually, as well as reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons per year.

Neglected courtyard transformed into water-efficient outdoor classroom, native garden

In pairing water conservation with inspiration, a neglected courtyard at Cochran Elementary School in West Dallas, Texas, has been transformed into a water-efficient outdoor classroom and native garden that will be used to teach and delight thousands of students for years to come.

WERF, WRF seek proposals to support energy research at water, wastewater plants

The Water Environment Research Foundation has combined resources with the Water Research Foundation to continue critical energy research for water and wastewater facilities. Proposals are sought for two new projects to dig deeper into factors affecting energy projects.

USDA commits $4M in several states to improve Chesapeake Bay water quality

In a first round of funding, the USDA announced that it will commit $4 million to several states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to help agricultural landowners accelerate stream and riverbank tree plantings that can reduce soil sedimentation and field and animal waste runoff.




© 2015. PennWell Corporation. All Rights Reserved. PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS