NASA Aids in Mapping Michigan Floods

A preliminary Flood Proxy Map shows in light blue areas that are likely flooded as of May 20 in Midland City, Michigan. Credits: NASA/ARIA-JPL/NCU/Planet Labs

Heavy rainfall starting on May 17 caused significant flooding in Michigan’s Midland County. The governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency and ordered more than 10,000 residents to evacuate. The floods resulted in the failure of the Edenville Dam the evening of May 19 and the Sanford Dam several hours later, causing additional flooding around the Tittabawassee River region.

A team with NASA’s Earth Science Disasters Program supplied a “flood proxy map” (above) based on satellite observations to the U.S. Air Force and the Swiss Re Group insurance company to aid in their assessments. The map shows the area on May 20 and provides information on flooding and likely areas of additional flooding.

The Disasters Program continues to monitor the situation to determine which additional NASA resources and capabilities may be available to support the risk management of this event.

NASA regularly leverages the power of our views of Earth from space and research aircraft to assist communities around the world as they plan for and recover from severe, often life-threatening, disasters. Data from NASA’s robust constellation of satellites and airborne and ground sensors are used to assess, predict and describe disaster impacts to inform the actions of leaders, first responders, and those providing relief.

The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, collaborated on the map, which was generated by the National Central University of Taiwan. The map includes optical satellite data acquired by Planet Labs, a private Earth-imaging company. – Aries Keck

A Very Tough Month for Natural Disasters

When major disasters strike, NASA mobilizes to aid disaster response and recovery efforts by bringing the power of space – data from science satellites circling the globe or from the International Space Station – to responders on the ground.

Tapping the terabytes of global environmental data streaming down every day from NASA’s fleet of Earth-orbiting satellites and other airborne and space-based assets, the NASA Earth Science Disasters Program works with international, regional, and local natural disaster response agencies and other Earth-observing space agencies around the world to quickly deliver critical information.

The program has been particularly active over the past month since Hurricane Harvey formed in late August, followed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and two major earthquakes in Mexico. NASA provided an array of information products in support of disaster responses to each of these events.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, NASA produced a map (below) of “financial loss potential” in Texas and Louisiana by combining data on the extent of flooding with property values in affected areas.

The program created a collection of georeferenced digital camera images taken by astronauts on the International Space Station in mid-September that detail the flooding in Florida caused by Hurricane Irma.

Using historical and current satellite data on rainfall, the program provided disaster managers with a map showing areas at risk of landslides after the major Sept. 7 earthquake offshore of Chiapas, Mexico.

In 2016 NASA responded to nearly 100 events, enabling coordination and information support for a wide range of global incidents.

“Our program is like a think tank with the technical expertise and strong relationships that we draw on to provide useful products to disaster managers,” said David Green, manager of NASA’s Disasters Program, part of the Earth Science Division in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “When disasters occur, our researchers become providers and distributors of images, data, and damage assessments.”

Dedicated teams of Earth-observation disaster specialists at seven NASA centers respond to events in real-time and work with partner agencies to get them the information they need. The program mobilizes for intensive risk events that span a range of natural hazards – earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, floods, landslides, severe weather, winter storms, tropical cyclones, and volcanoes – plus manmade events such as oil spills and industrial accidents.

Related link:

NASA Feature: “When Disaster Strikes, NASA Brings the Power of Space