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, not-for-profit operation depends on grant and project support. Financial contributions may be tax-deductible.

Flood Observatory Director Albert Kettner and Founder and Associate Director Robert Brakenridge

Recently Mapped Floods


Below: comparison of Copernicus/ESA Sentinel 1 SAR images showing October 11 breaching of St Joseph Peninsula south of Mexico Beach, Florida

Below: October 11 flooding of New River and Crooked River north of Carabelle Florida (left) and urban flooding (red) in Panama City, Florida (right)

2018USA4676Florence; 2018Nigeria4667; 2018India4663; 2018Bangladesh4659; 2018Laos4658; 2018SriLanka4619; 2018USA4610; 2018Somalia4605; 2018USA4601;2018Australia4567; 2018France4566; 2017Albania4548; 2017Vietnam4533; 2017Thailand4529; 2017Vietnam4518; 2017USA4524; 2017USA4523; 2017USA4510; 2017India4507; 2017Uruguay4475; 2017SriLanka4474; 2017Russia4473;

Flood Observatory Web Map Server

GeoSUR Web Map Server


Colorado Public Radio Interview: "The 2013 Floods Made the Research Personal"

Science Article about DFO by Jason Plautz

2018 AGU Book Chapter, Flood Risk Mapping From Orbital Remote Sensing


Current Conditions

(Red: Reported major floods during past 20 days. White squares: Current Conditions displays)

Whole Earth image from JHT's Planetary Pixel Emporium

Since late 1999, satellite data have been obtained by the Flood Observatory, processed to detect water/land boundaries, and analyzed to produce flood inundation limits in vector GIS format. DFO's Current Conditions updates this information each day into displays showing current surface water compared to the record of flooding. In 2017, we are revising the displays for global coverage. New format sample: 090E030N.


River and Reservoir Watch

DFO's River and Reservoir Watch provides experimental, fully automated satellite-based river discharge and reservoir area measurements. They are updated daily and do not require any ground-based information. However, ground-based gauging stations can test its results (blue line in example below, Site #91, Wabash River, central USA). DFO is developing an array of validated measurement sites for the Earth (click on link above or map below).

The same technology is also being used to monitor reservoir area changes (Site #2012, example below; satellite altimetry for comparison).

Twice-daily updates at 2:30 and 14:30 Local Denver Time

River Watch 3


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

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


Vegetation Index-Indicated Drought

Daily updates at DFO at 6:00 local Denver time; source image is updated weekly



7-day Accumulated Rainfall

from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Satellite Precipitation


Current NASA Worldview MODIS Display


SSMI/SSMIS/AMSR2 Total Precipitable Water


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.


Large and Extreme floods listed in the DFO Flood Archive


Geographic Centers of floods in the FloodArchive, 1985-2010

Movie of Flood Locations, 1985-2016

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 led 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. Commercial use is available by permission.




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