13 June 2024
Satellite captures coastal flooding near San Francisco

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Understanding Satellite Coastal Flooding during California Storms

In February, California experienced a series of powerful atmospheric rivers that brought record-breaking rainfall and intense winds across the state. This extreme weather event led to flood watches being issued for almost the entire California coast. During this period, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, a collaborative effort between NASA and the French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales), captured valuable data on the coastal flooding near the town of Manchester, located approximately 105 miles north of San Francisco.

The SWOT satellite imagery provides a unique perspective on the flooding in the region. By comparing images taken on January 15, before the storms hit, to those captured on February 4, after the first wave of storms, the satellite revealed the extent of the flooding. The images depict water heights using shades of green and blue, with lighter colors indicating higher water levels relative to mean sea level. Additionally, the data collected by SWOT includes the height of floodwaters and ground elevation, providing a comprehensive view of the affected areas.

Role of SWOT Satellite in Measuring Water Levels

Since December 2022, the SWOT satellite has been instrumental in measuring water levels on Earth’s surface, offering detailed insights into the planet’s oceans, freshwater lakes, and rivers. Unlike other satellites that can only detect the presence of water, SWOT has the capability to provide water level data, enhancing our understanding of water depth in various water bodies. This comprehensive view of water bodies is crucial for monitoring and predicting flooding events, such as the coastal flooding witnessed in California during the storms.

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Ben Hamlington, the lead researcher for NASA’s sea level change team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, highlighted the significance of SWOT in providing valuable information on flooding events. While traditional satellite imagery can show the extent of flooding in an area, SWOT’s ability to measure water levels offers a more detailed understanding of how flooding evolves over time. By combining SWOT data with other sources of information, scientists can create a more comprehensive picture of flood conditions and their impact on coastal regions.

SWOT Satellite Technology and Data Collection

The SWOT satellite employs advanced technology, including the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument, to collect surface-height measurements of water bodies. The KaRIn instrument consists of two antennas spaced 33 feet apart on a boom, which enables it to produce data swaths as it orbits the Earth. By emitting radar pulses and measuring the reflections off water surfaces, KaRIn generates precise surface-height measurements that contribute to the detailed mapping of water levels across the planet.

The data collected by the SWOT satellite can provide valuable insights into various water features, such as lakes and rivers, aiding in the accurate assessment of water depth. This information is particularly crucial for monitoring changes in water levels during extreme weather events like storms and floods. The ability of SWOT to capture high-resolution data on water bodies contributes to a better understanding of coastal flooding dynamics and supports efforts to improve flood forecasting and mitigation strategies.

Impact of SWOT Satellite on Flood Monitoring and Management

The data obtained from the SWOT satellite plays a significant role in enhancing flood monitoring and management strategies. By providing detailed information on water levels and flood extents, SWOT enables authorities to make informed decisions during emergency situations, such as coastal flooding events. The satellite’s ability to capture real-time data on water bodies helps in assessing the severity of flooding and facilitating timely response measures to protect communities and infrastructure.

Furthermore, the comprehensive view of water bodies offered by SWOT contributes to improving flood forecasting models and enhancing early warning systems for coastal regions prone to flooding. By integrating SWOT data with other environmental data sources, scientists and policymakers can better understand the complex interactions between rainfall, tides, and coastal topography that contribute to coastal flooding. This holistic approach to flood monitoring and management can lead to more effective mitigation measures and increased resilience to future flooding events.

The SWOT satellite’s capability to capture detailed data on water levels and flood extents is instrumental in improving our understanding of coastal flooding dynamics during extreme weather events. By leveraging the advanced technology and comprehensive view provided by SWOT, scientists and decision-makers can enhance flood monitoring and management strategies, ultimately reducing the impacts of coastal flooding on communities and ecosystems.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://swot.jpl.nasa.gov/ 2. https://www.cnes.fr/ 3. https://www.nasa.gov/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn), Coastal flooding

Surface Water and Ocean Topography
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission is a satellite altimeter jointly developed and operated by NASA and CNES, the French space agency, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and UK Space Agency (UKSA). The objectives of the mission are to make the first global survey of...
Read more: Surface Water and Ocean Topography

Surface Water and Ocean Topography
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission is a satellite altimeter jointly developed and operated by NASA and CNES, the French space agency, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and UK Space Agency (UKSA). The objectives of the mission are to make the first global survey of...
Read more: Surface Water and Ocean Topography

Coastal flooding
Coastal flooding occurs when dry and low-lying land is submerged (flooded) by seawater. The range of a coastal flooding is a result of the elevation of floodwater that penetrates the inland which is controlled by the topography of the coastal land exposed to flooding. The seawater can flood the land...
Read more: Coastal flooding

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