Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3475–3494, 2011
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3475–3494, 2011

Research article 17 Nov 2011

Research article | 17 Nov 2011

Use of ENVISAT ASAR Global Monitoring Mode to complement optical data in the mapping of rapid broad-scale flooding in Pakistan

D. O'Grady, M. Leblanc, and D. Gillieson D. O'Grady et al.
  • School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, 14–88 McGregor Road, Smithfield, QLD 4878, Australia

Abstract. Envisat ASAR Global Monitoring Mode (GM) data are used to produce maps of the extent of the flooding in Pakistan which are made available to the rapid response effort within 24 h of acquisition. The high temporal frequency and independence of the data from cloud-free skies makes GM data a viable tool for mapping flood waters during those periods where optical satellite data are unavailable, which may be crucial to rapid response disaster planning, where thousands of lives are affected. Image differencing techniques are used, with pre-flood baseline image backscatter values being deducted from target values to eliminate regions with a permanent flood-like radar response due to volume scattering and attenuation, and to highlight the low response caused by specular reflection by open flood water. The effect of local incidence angle on the received signal is mitigated by ensuring that the deducted image is acquired from the same orbit track as the target image. Poor separability of the water class with land in areas beyond the river channels is tackled using a region-growing algorithm which seeks threshold-conformance from seed pixels at the center of the river channels. The resultant mapped extents are tested against MODIS SWIR data where available, with encouraging results.