Maps showing flooding near Houston after Hurricane Harvey in 2017
The flooding of an area near Houston (the urban region shown in grey) caused by the hurricane Harvey in 2017. The U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges are shown as red triangles, while blue color illustrates the inundation extent as detected (a) by the Sentinel-1 satellite (a currently operational system) on August 30, 2017. Panels b, c, and d show the hydrographs at three outlets in the area with the timing of hypothetical SWOT passes indicated by the vertical lines. Panels e, f, and g show the five relevant swaths, over which SWOT would have collected water surface elevation, slope, and inundation extents, if the system were operational during the hurricane Harvey event. Credit: Frasson et al. [2019], Figure 4
Source: Geophysical Research Letters

Floods are major hazards to life and infrastructure, yet they are still difficult to monitor across spatial and temporal scales. The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission is expected to offer novel observational capabilities in flood detection and monitoring, such as the simultaneous measurement of water surface elevations and inundation areas. Frasson et al. [2019] provide a comprehensive global scale analysis of past floods to understand the limits of these capabilities.

The study highlights that, if operational, the SWOT mission would have been able to characterize more than half of historical floods recorded between 1985 and 2018. SWOT deployment characteristics permit monitoring of long-lasting or large floods with data relevant for emergency response activities and also capable of supporting real-time flood hydraulic modeling.

Citation: Frasson, R. P. d. M., Schumann, G. J.‐P., Kettner, A. J., Brakenridge, G. R., & Krajewski, W. F. [2019]. Will the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission observe floods? Geophysical Research Letters, 46.

—Valeriy Ivanov, Editor, Geophysical Research Letters

Text © 2019. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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