Active Archive of Large Floods, 1985-Present

Master Index of Inundation Maps

The Surface Water Record

River Watch

Other Flood Detection Tools

Sample Images and Maps






Space-based Measurement, Mapping, and Modeling of Surface Water

For Research, Humanitarian, and Water Management Applications

Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System
INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Campus Box 450, Boulder, CO 80309 USA

Flood Observatory Mission Statement

The Dartmouth Flood Observatory was founded in 1993 at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH USA and moved to the University of Colorado, INSTAAR in 2010. Its sustained operation depends on grant and project support. Gift contributions are accepted. Especially if your organization uses these data and maps, consider helping sustain this effort.

Vitae: Flood Observatory Director Robert Brakenridge and Associate Director Albert Kettner

Movie of Flood Locations, 1985-2016

Flood Observatory Web Map Server

GeoSUR Web Map Server (turn on "LAC Floods" and "River Flow" layers)

Science Story about DFO by Jason Plautz

Mapping of Flooding In Vietnam (in progress)

Mapping of Hurricane Nate Flooding (in progress)

Mapping of Hurricane Maria Flooding

(Below, satellite synthetic aperture radar mapping of Hurricane Maria-induced flooding, September 21, 2017, north shore of Puerto Rico, from Copernicus/European Space Agency data. Red is new water compared to a pre-flood image.)


Example from the DFO Web Map Server

Surface Water Watch

(Note: Display may not refresh to latest version in Chrome. Test using another browser.)

Whole Earth image from JHT's Planetary Pixel Emporium

Since late 1999, satellite data have been obtained by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, processed to detect water/land boundaries, and analyzed to produce flood inundation limits in vector GIS format. Surface Water Watch compiles this information in near real time to produce a comprehensive record of terrestrial surface water variability, present and past. In 2017, we are revising the processing algorithms and displays. Draft new format samples: 030E020N, 090E030N, 100W040N

Mapping of Hurricane Irma Flooding

Below, before and after MODIS images of Inagua Island, Bahamas.


Mapping of Hurricane Harvey Flooding

Example from the DFO Web Map Server



River Watch 3: Experimental Satellite-based River Discharge Measurements

Daily updates at 14:30 Local Denver Time

River Watch 3


Flood-generating (red) and Drought-affected (yellow) Watersheds

Daily updates at 14:30 Local Denver Time. Data are from River Watch.



Rivers in southern India flooded after passage of a tropical depression in 2015: River Watch Site 2041


River Watch sites also track droughts: River Watch Site 277, Zambezi River, Zambia.

NOAA Operational Hydro-Estimator 7-day Satellite Rainfall Estimates


SSMI/SSMIS/AMSR2 Total Precipitable Water


Current NASA Worldview MODIS Display


7-day Accumulated Rainfall

from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Satellite Precipitation

Samples of Recent Flood Mapping


Large and Extreme floods listed in the DFO Flood Archive


Geographic Centers of floods in the FloodArchive, 1985-2010

Survey of DFO Projects and Products


The Flood Observatory facilitates use of space-based information for international flood detection, flood response, future risk assessment, and hydrological research. In 2013-2017, it is leading a NASA Applied Sciences project to assist World Food Program use of flood mapping information. Click on video below for visualization of WFP logistics.



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Creative Commons License
This work, web site, and associated data are by G. R. Brakenridge and A. J. Kettner and are provided here under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. With attribution, they can be used and shared freely for non-commercial purposes. By permission, they can also be used for many commercial purposes.




This work is made possible by data acquired by NASA, the Japanese Space Agency, and the European Space Agency, and funding support from NASA and the European Commission, through the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) project, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy. The Observatory was founded in 1993 at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH USA and moved to the University of Colorado, INSTAAR, CSDMS in 2010. The institutional support of both universities is gratefully acknowledged.

http://floodobservatory.colorado.edu/Flood Observatory