Rising Water: Mapping the 2013 Colorado Floods with Landsat 8

Team Location: North Central Climate Science Center, Fort Collins, Colorado

Modified Normalized Difference Water Index of pre-flood (Left, 8/16/13) and  during-flood (Right, 9/17/13) Landsat 8 scenes (Path/Row: 34/32) over Front Range. White areas indicate water. Image Credit: Colorado Water Resources Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Modified Normalized Difference Water Index of pre-flood (Left, 8/16/13) and during-flood (Right, 9/17/13) Landsat 8 scenes (Path/Row: 34/32) over Front Range. White areas indicate water. Image Credit: Colorado Water Resources Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.



Authors:
Steve Chignell, Project Lead (Colorado State University)
Ryan Anderson (University of Wyoming)
Sky Skach (Colorado State University)
Amber Weimer (Colorado State University)

Mentors/Advisers:
Paul Evangelista, Ph.D. (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Lab)
Jeff Morisette, Ph.D. (U.S. Geological Survey, North Central Climate Science Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
Melinda Laituri, Ph.D. (Colorado State University, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and the Geospatial Centroid)
Stephanie Kampf, Ph.D. (Colorado State University, Department of Ecosystem Science and
Sustainability)
Nicholas Young (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory)

Abstract:
On Sept. 12, 2013, tropical moisture drawn north from Mexico by a low-pressure system blew up into the Rocky Mountains and began to release its contents over the Colorado Front Range. Over the next five days, more than 17 inches of rain fell in some areas, flooding 17 counties and more than 2,000 square miles of land. Eight lives were lost, and thousands of other people were displaced or stranded as damage to 200 miles of roadways and 50 bridges cut off access to numerous residential areas. The flood waters destroyed 1,800 homes and damaged more than 16,000 others, resulting in an estimated $2 billion (USD) in property damage to residential and commercial properties. In addition to the effects of Colorado’s infrastructure, the state’s $40 billion (USD) agriculture industry has seen many of its fields inundated, and there are now increasing concerns over environmental and public health in the face of groundwater contamination. Utilizing a combination of remote-sensing techniques, Geographic Information System (GIS) data, and flood gauge data, this project employed Landsat 8 imagery taken before and during the floods to calculate total inundated area and delineate flood extent. This data was then used to assess pre-existing flood hazard maps of the area. The resulting maps and methodologies from this project will be delivered to the Geospatial Centroid at Colorado State University, a GIS research center that will disseminate them to local governments and organizations as they work to better understand this historic event and plan for recovery throughout the region.



Return to the Fall 2013 VPS page.


Topic: ,