121 &139

Task 121 &139

Global Floods and Landslides

Principal Investigator(s):

R. Adler, H. Wu


F. Policelli

Last Updated:

October 26, 2012 15:25:27

Description of Problem

The objective is to develop, test and apply a global system for estimating floods and landslides using satellite precipitation information, other satellite data and hydrological models.

Scientific Objectives and Approach

Lead effort to test hydrological models with satellite precipitation data and evaluate results in terms of floods and landslides with calculations made in real-time. This work is accomplished with colleagues at ESSIC and at Goddard Space Flight Center.


The primary goal of this on-going activity is to adapt, improve, validate, and transfer a global flood and landslide technique to an operational entity so that it will be available for decision-making in support of disaster risk reduction activities around the globe. Regional applications focus on East Africa through our participation in SERVIR-Africa. Our initial flood and landslide models are routinely running in real-time, with 3-hr updates, with graphic results appearing on the TRMM web site (trmm.gsfc.nasa.gov). Multi-satellite rain estimates are obtained from the TRMM/GPM Precipitation Processing System (PPS) and combined with the surface information (SRTM DEM, MODIS vegetation, etc.) and the models to produce the locations of probable flood and landslide activity.

Results from the project are being used by the International Red Cross and other national and international organizations to monitor global hazard events and plan mitigation strategies. This work is also part of the Societal Benefits efforts under the CEOS/GEO umbrella, with specific items in the international work plan for continuation and testing of the algorithms and transfer of the operational responsibility for the products.

A major accomplishment this year has been the implementation of an improved hydrological model, the Coupled Routing and Excess Storage (CREST) hydrological model (Wang et al. 2010) for the globe at 1/8 degree spatial resolution and 3-hourly time interval. The second major accomplishment has been the evaluation of the model in detecting recorded historic (1998-2010) flood events. Global retrospective hydrological simulations were conducted using the CREST model driven by 13 year TMPA 3B42V6 rainfall. The evaluation for the balanced POD/FAR performance was conducted from 41 selected flood well reported areas over the globe. The evaluation showed the new model improved flood detection performance especially according to the second method which derives the highest POD (61%) and lowest FAR (79%). The POD performance of the new model increases as the flood duration and affected area rise, e.g. the second method has a POD of 78% for all reported floods with duration more than 4 days. An initial evaluation of dam and levee effects on false alarms was performed over the 41 selected areas using a global large dam database showing more dams tend to lead higher FAR, indicating dams play a dominant role affecting the GFMS flood detection performance in FAR. This model development and evaluation provides a pathway forward for continued improvement in future.

Refereed Journal Publications

Kirschbaum, D. B., R. Adler, Y. Hong, and A. Lerner-Lam, 2009: Evaluation of a Preliminary Satellite-Based Landslide Hazard Algorithm Using Global Landslide Inventories. Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, 9, 673-686.

Yilmaz, K., R. Adler, Y. Tian, Y. Hong, H. Pierce, 2010: Evaluation of a Satellite-based Global Flood Monitoring System. International Journal of Remote Sensing, accepted.

Wang J., Y. Hong., L. Li., J.J. Gourley., K. Yilmaz., Khan S. I., Policelli. F. S, Adler R. F., Habib S., Irwin. D., Limaye. S. A., Korme.T , and L. Okello, 2011, The Coupled Routing and Excess STorage (CREST) Distributed Hydrological Model. Hydrol. Science Journal,. In press.

Other Publications and Conferences

Hong, Y., R.F. Adler, G.J. Huffman, 2009: Applications of TRMM-based Multi-satellite Precipitation Estimation for Global Runoff Simulation: Prototyping a Global Flood Monitoring System, in Satellite Applications for Surface Hydrology, F. Hossain and M. Gebremichael, Eds., Springer Verlag, 327p.