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. Charitable contributions are accepted and may be tax-deductible. If you or your organization uses these data and maps, consider helping sustain the Observatory.

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

Read new article: "Adaptation required to preserve future high-end river flood risk at present levels"

GFP 2018: The next Global Flood Partnership meeting will be on 25 - 27 June 2018 in Delft, The Netherlands, hosted by Deltares Institute. We will focus on the services that GFP can provide in predicting and managing flood impacts and flood risk globally. There may be travel support available for a limited number of participants from developing countries. Details will be posted in early 2018. There is no registration fee.

New: DFO's ESA/Copernicus Sentinel 1-based mapping of flooding in Australia, January 31, 2018. Mapping in progress; sample results below. See also the DFO Map Server.

New: DFO's ESA/Copernicus Sentinel 1-based mapping of flooding (red) in France, January 28, 2018. Mapping in progress; sample results below. See also the DFO Map Server.


New: 2017 Flooding in Vietnam, Cyclone Damrey; 2017 Flooding in Thailand; Reservoir Status Monitoring (example for Lake Nasser); (example for Merowe Reservoir, Sudan); "Can Atmospheric Reanalysis Data Sets Be Used to Reproduce Flooding Over Large Scales?"; 2017 Flooding In Vietnam; 2017 Hurricane Nate Flooding; 2017 Hurricane Irma Flooding; 2017 Hurricane Harvey Flooding; 2017 Hurricane Maria Flooding

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. Ground-based gauging stations can accurately observe flow changes along rivers and streams (blue line in example below, Site #91, Wabash River, central USA). Using specially processed microwave information (in black), satellite data can provide similar data at very much lower cost and across international boundaries. DFO is developing an array of validated measurement sites for the Earth (click on link above or map below).

Twice-daily updates at 2:30 and 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.


Vegetation Index-Indicated Drought

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



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



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.


(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.)

Puerto Rico Flooding


Example from the DFO Web Map Server

Puerto Rico Flood Map


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. 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