So Many Maps, So Little Time

Earthzine2015 Spring VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Monitoring Wetlands and Mitigating Floods

Category: Monitoring Wetlands and Mitigating Floods

Project Team: Malawi Disasters Team

Team Location: International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) – Palisades, New York

Validated spatial accuracy of seven flood maps produced during the January 2015 Malawi floods with shelter locations based on Red Cross and UKAID information. Image Credit: Malawi Disasters Team


Andrew Kruczkiewicz

Helen Cen


Dr. Pietro Ceccato (Lead Environmental Monitoring Program, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute, Columbia University)

Past/Other Contributors:

Jerrod Lessel

Alex Sweeney


Malawi is prone to floods, especially during its rainy season from October to April. In January 2015, Malawi experienced a series of floods which resulted in 79 deaths, 153 missing, and more than 175,000 people displaced. A partnership with the Malawi Red Cross and a review of media reports showed that relief efforts were not reaching the affected population in a timely manner. The difference between the spatial coverage and accuracy among flood maps generated for the January 2015 flood events in Malawi may have contributed to the delay or lack of relief efforts in certain areas. Due to the limitations of flood-detecting products (especially flash floods), affected communities could have been overlooked by disaster responders. A comparative analysis using shelter locations to verify the spatial coverage of the January 2015 Malawi floods was conducted using Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO) flood map, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Near Real-Time Global Flood Mapping Project (NRT-GFM), TerraSAR-X (German satellite) inundation map, RADARSAT (Canadian satellite) inundation map, RADARSAT-2 (Canadian satellite) inundation map, the University of Maryland Global Flood Monitoring System Flood Detection (GFMS-FD) product and GFMS Inundation 1KM (GFMS-I) product. The results of this study will increase the ability to monitor flood events, which will benefit organizations involved with disaster relief efforts in Malawi, allowing for quicker response and more appropriate allocation of emergency flood relief efforts.

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