Powerful new technology maps Townsville floods in near real time

phys.org | 2/5/2019 | Staff
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UNSW Sydney researchers are providing accurate maps of the Townsville flood frontier within an hour using the latest satellite radar imaging technology.

Record-breaking floods threatening North Queensland are being mapped by UNSW Sydney researchers within an hour to provide snapshots of rising floodwaters where previously such images were slow to produce and hampered by poor visibility.

Satellites - Radar - Technology - Cloud - Cover

Using European satellites that are fitted with radar imaging technology able to penetrate cloud cover, the UNSW researchers are able to put together an accurate and comprehensive flood map in less than an hour after images are made available by satellite. This new type of flood intelligence could allow authorities to make decisions about critical infrastructure – such as switching off power stations – before flood waters can reach them.

Professor Linlin Ge of UNSW's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering says this is the first time that such advanced satellite technology has been used to map flooded areas from space.

Volumes - Satellite - Data - Space - Agency

"First, we download very large volumes of satellite data from the European Space Agency," he says.

"Then we process these data at UNSW to generate comprehensive maps to show the extent of the floods."

Professor - Ge - Researchers - Part - Geoscience

Professor Ge says he and his researchers, part of the Geoscience and Earth Observing Systems Group, were previously involved with amassing such data using less advanced satellite technology during the 2011 floods that ravaged southern Queensland. At that time, they provided their data directly to the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy.

This time around, the group went for a simpler strategy and made the data available to all via social media and can be viewed by following the Twitter hashtag #UNSW-GEOS.

Technology - Image - Floods - Heavy - Rains

Prior to using this latest technology, getting a composite, accurate and up-to-date image of floods has been difficult. Heavy rains, strong winds, thick cloud and lightning can make it impossible or dangerous to fly...
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