Flood damage in Colorado
Aerial view showing flood damage in Colorado on 14 September 2013. Credit: Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner/U.S. Army

Flooding is the most common natural hazard and affects more people worldwide than any other disaster. Apart from many fatalities and displacements, flooding costs over US$100 billion annually. Recent international community efforts like the 2016 Flood Response Workshop have focused on providing better products and services for flood disaster response assistance worldwide. However, flood risk requires more attention—evidenced by its framing in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This agenda and agreement calls for researchers to combine flood hazard analysis at a global scale with vulnerability metrics at local scales.

To discuss this need, approximately 80 researchers from different sectors and organizations gathered at the NASA-supported international Flood Risk Workshop. By forming a new Flood Risk Community of Practice (FRCP), the aim of the workshop was to reach consensus on priority actions to address the main challenges in flood risk estimation and align those actions with the goals of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Global Flood Risk Monitoring (GEO 2017–2019 Work Programme) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Landsat Ohio-Mississippi River flooding
Landsat images of the Ohio-Mississippi River confluence before and during floods in 2011. Credit: USGS

Workshop participants identified a need to better understand availability in data and tools to mitigate flood risk. Addressing this need will facilitate a global methodological comparison between various Earth-observing data sets, models, and maps while ensuring a focus on local flood risk and impacts of climate change. Together, the attendees defined a 10-year plan to be addressed by FRCP:

  • Phase I is laying the foundation for FRCP by establishing the following:
    • interoperability of products through implementing well-established standards (for example, Open Geospatial Consortium standards)
    • communication of methods and models to encourage transparency and ultimately accelerate scientific advances of the community by building upon knowledge
    • uncertainty estimation for flood risk mapping and modeling products to better ensure informed decisions by flood risk management

At the end of this 2-year period the FRCP group will have (1) a document that addresses the above-identified topics and (2) a demonstration framework to show how improving products will help societies and the wider community.

  • Phase II encompasses broadening community consensus by reaching out to key data providers to ensure that required data are open access and globally available, working on improved lead times and confidence in forecasts, and broadening the network of practitioners and data providers, so end users can continue to give feedback to providers.
  • Phase III is establishing a Global Flood Consortium (GFC). GFC will be a sustained consortium, incorporated as an international not-for-profit and community-run entity. The mission of GFC is to ensure access to global flood hazard and risk monitoring and forecast data and models as well as to provide access to archival data sets. GFC could make use of already available platforms like the Global Flood Partnership.

More information on the workshop and presentations can be found here.

We thank NASA, Remote Sensing Solutions, and the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System for sponsoring this workshop.

—Albert J. Kettner (kettner@colorado.edu), Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO), Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado (CU) Boulder; Guy J.-P. Schumann, Remote Sensing Solutions, Barnstable, Mass.; also at University of Bristol, U.K.; also at DFO, CU Boulder; and Beth Tellman, Cloud to Street, New York, N.Y.; also at School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe


Kettner, A. J.,Schumann, G. J.-P., and Tellman, B. (2019), The push toward local flood risk assessment at a global scale, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO113857. Published on 14 January 2019.

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