The potential of flood forecasting using a variable-resolution global Digital Terrain Model and flood extents from Synthetic Aperture Radar images
Mason, D. C., Garcia-Pintado, J., Cloke, H. L. and Dance, S. L. (2015) The potential of flood forecasting using a variable-resolution global Digital Terrain Model and flood extents from Synthetic Aperture Radar images. Frontiers in Earth Science, 3. 43. ISSN 2296-6463
To link to this article DOI: 10.3389/feart.2015.00043
A basic data requirement of a river flood inundation model is a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the reach being studied. The scale at which modeling is required determines the accuracy required of the DTM. For modeling floods in urban areas, a high resolution DTM such as that produced by airborne LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) is most useful, and large parts of many developed countries have now been mapped using LiDAR. In remoter areas, it is possible to model flooding on a larger scale using a lower resolution DTM, and in the near future the DTM of choice is likely to be that derived from the TanDEM-X Digital Elevation Model (DEM). A variable-resolution global DTM obtained by combining existing high and low resolution data sets would be useful for modeling flood water dynamics globally, at high resolution wherever possible and at lower resolution over larger rivers in remote areas. A further important data resource used in flood modeling is the flood extent, commonly derived from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images. Flood extents become more useful if they are intersected with the DTM, when water level observations (WLOs) at the flood boundary can be estimated at various points along the river reach. To illustrate the utility of such a global DTM, two examples of recent research involving WLOs at opposite ends of the spatial scale are discussed. The first requires high resolution spatial data, and involves the assimilation of WLOs from a real sequence of high resolution SAR images into a flood model to update the model state with observations over time, and to estimate river discharge and model parameters, including river bathymetry and friction. The results indicate the feasibility of such an Earth Observation-based flood forecasting system. The second example is at a larger scale, and uses SAR-derived WLOs to improve the lower-resolution TanDEM-X DEM in the area covered by the flood extents. The resulting reduction in random height error is significant.