Team Location: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Authors: Katrina Laygo, Austin Madson, Antony Bina.
Advisors/Mentors: Dr. Cathleen Jones, Benjamin Holt.
Abstract: Each spring, precipitation and snowmelt in the central U.S. leads to high water levels in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, resulting in concurrent flooding and levee damage nearly every year. In the spring of 2011, historic water levels led to extensive flooding from Mississippi County, Missouri, to southern Louisiana. This flooding necessitated the opening of three major spillways, including the Morganza Spillway north of New Orleans, which diverts water from the Mississippi River through the Atchafalaya Basin of central Louisiana. Applying remote sensing to flood mapping along the main rivers and small tributaries that feed into them is valuable to NOAA, the agency responsible for flood prediction, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for flood control. Knowledge of water flow in the smaller tributaries and soil moisture in the watersheds is essential to the modeling that gives advance warning of flood times and locations. Our study used high- resolution radar (UAVSAR) and optical/thermal imagery (ASTER and Landsat TM) to determine the accuracy and resolution with which flooding can be located. This was accomplished by tracking the water extent along rivers and changes in the water extent between spring and normal levels in fall or early winter. Our goal is to develop an easily applied algorithm that uses a standard analysis package for water extent measurement along waterways, including a product outlining areas with significant changes in the water location. The outcome of this project will demonstrate the value of remote sensing during flood response operations by developing a product from NASA remotely sensed data that is usable by non-experts with widely available software.
Video transcript available here.