Deep Hydrology: Hourly, Gap-Free Flood Maps Through Joint Satellite and Hydrologic Modelling (Papers Track)

Tanya Nair (Cloud To Street); Veda Sunkara (Cloud to Street); Jonathan Frame (Cloud to Street); Philip Popien (Cloud to Street); Subit Chakrabarti (Cloud To Street)

Paper PDF Slides PDF Recorded Talk NeurIPS 2022 Poster Topia Link Cite
Computer Vision & Remote Sensing Climate Justice Climate Science & Modeling Disaster Management and Relief Extreme Weather Hybrid Physical Models


Climate change-driven weather disasters are rapidly increasing in both frequency and magnitude. Floods are the most damaging of these disasters, with approximately 1.46 billion people exposed to inundation depths of over 0.15m, a significant life and livelihood risk. Accurate knowledge of flood-extent for ongoing and historical events facilitates climate adaptation in flood-prone communities by enabling near real-time disaster monitoring to support planning, response, and relief during these extreme events. Satellite observations can be used to derive flood-extent maps directly; however, these observations are impeded by cloud and canopy cover, and can be very infrequent and hence miss the flood completely. In contrast, physically-based inundation models can produce spatially complete event maps but suffer from high uncertainty if not frequently calibrated with expensive land and infrastructure surveys. In this study, we propose a deep learning approach to reproduce satellite-observed fractional flood-extent maps given dynamic state variables from hydrologic models, fusing information contained within the states with direct observations from satellites. Our model has an hourly temporal resolution, contains no cloud-gaps, and generalizes to watersheds across the continental United States with a 6% error on held-out areas that never flooded before. We further demonstrate through a case study in Houston, Texas that our model can distinguish tropical cyclones that caused flooding from those that did not within two days of landfall, thereby providing a reliable source for flood-extent maps that can be used by disaster monitoring services.

Recorded Talk (direct link)