Remote Sensing (Sep 2015)

Rapid Response to a Typhoon-Induced Flood with an SAR-Derived Map of Inundated Areas: Case Study and Validation

  • Hsiao-Wei Chung,
  • Cheng-Chien Liu,
  • I-Fan Cheng,
  • Yun-Ruei Lee,
  • Ming-Chang Shieh

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 9
pp. 11954 – 11973


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We report the successful case of a rapid response to a flash flood in I-Lan County of Taiwan with a map of inundated areas derived from COSMO-SkyMed 1 radar satellite imagery within 24 hours. The flood was caused by the intensive precipitation brought by Typhoon Soulik in July 2013. Based on the ensemble forecasts of trajectory, an urgent request of spaceborne SAR imagery was made 24 hours before Typhoon Soulik made landfall. Two COSMO-SkyMed images were successfully acquired when the center of Typhoon Soulik had just crossed the northern part of Taiwan. The standard level-1b product (radiometric-corrected, geometric-calibrated and orthorectified image) was generated by using the off-the-shelf SARscape software. Following the same approach used with the Expert Landslide and Shadow Area Delineating System, the regional threshold of each tile image was determined to delineate still water surface and quasi-inundated areas in a fully-automatic manner. The results were overlaid on a digital elevation model, and the same tile was visually compared to an optical image taken by Formosat-2 before this event. With this ancillary information, the inundated areas were accurately and quickly identified. The SAR-derived map of inundated areas was published on a web-based platform powered by Google Earth within 24 hours, with the aim of supporting the decision-making process of disaster prevention and mitigation. A detailed validation was made afterwards by comparing the map with in situ data of the water levels at 17 stations. The results demonstrate the feasibility of rapidly responding to a typhoon-induced flood with a spaceborne SAR-derived map of inundated areas. A standard operating procedure was derived from this work and followed by the Water Hazard Mitigation Center of the Water Resources Agency, Taiwan, in subsequent typhoon seasons, such as Typhoon Trami (August, 2013) and Typhoon Soudelor (August, 2015).