Copernicus Sentinel maps Hurricane Florence flooding

September 17, 2018, European Space Agency
The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission is being used to map floods resulting from Hurricane Florence. This map shows flooded areas in bright blue near Jacksonville, North Carolina, US, on 15 September 2018 at 11:07 GMT/UTC (07:07 local time). Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018)/Copernicus Emergency Management Service, processed by SERTIT

Making landfall in the US state of North Carolina on 14 September, Hurricane Florence is causing widespread damage and flooding. The Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar mission is being used to map affected areas.

Although this mighty hurricane was downgraded to a category 1 storm before it made landfall, the momentum the storm generated on its long trip across the Atlantic remains. Storm surges and flooding are therefore similar to that associated with a category 4 storm.

With lives and property at risk, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service was standing by – even before storm hit land – ready to map the floods to help relief efforts.

Using satellite information, the service provides information for response for different types of , including meteorological and geophysical hazards, deliberate and accidental disasters, humanitarian disasters, and for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities.

Philippe Brunet, European Commission Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, said, "With our fleet of Sentinel satellite missions and our Copernicus Emergency Management Service, we are very well placed to help to respond to disasters such as hurricanes.

"Our teams have been on stand-by for several days so that they could produce these maps quickly.

As an advanced radar mission, Sentinel-1 can image the surface of Earth through cloud and rain and regardless of whether it is day or night. This makes it an ideal mission, for example, for monitoring the polar regions, which are in darkness during the winter months and for monitoring tropical forests, which are typically shrouded by cloud. Over oceans, the mission will provide imagery to generate timely maps of sea-ice conditions for safe passage, to detect and track oil spills and to provide information on wind and waves, for example. Over land, Sentinel-1’s systematic observations will be used, for example, to track changes in the way the land is used and to monitor ground movement. Moreover, this new mission is designed specifically for fast response to aid emergencies and disasters such as flooding and earthquakes. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
"Our aim is to help and we have the tools to do so. We are, of course, concerned for all those affected by this huge storm."

Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite constellation. Each identical carries an advanced radar instrument, which can 'see' through clouds and rain. This is essential for mapping weather events such as this.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said, "In response to the activation from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, we specifically planned observations from both Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B so that areas in the US affected by the could be mapped.

"Sentinel-1, with its large-scale mapping capability, is particularly suited to mapping floods over large areas."

The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission is being used to map floods resulting from Hurricane Florence. This map shows flooded areas in bright blue near Kinston, North Carolina, US, on 15 September 2018 at 11:07 GMT/UTC (07:07 local time). Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018)/Copernicus Emergency Management Service, processed by SERTIT

The first maps shows flooded areas is near Jacksonville and Kinston, North Carolina.

The Sentinel-1 satellites, together with other satellites contributing to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, will provide further observations in the coming days.

Explore further: Image: Hurricane Lane

Related Stories

Image: Hurricane Lane

August 24, 2018

The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite took the temperature at the top of Hurricane Lane as it headed towards Hawaii's Big Island on 22 August 2018. Lane weakened to a Category 3 storm on 23 August, just before it hit Hawaii. ...

Sentinel-1 aids Balkan flood relief

May 29, 2014

Although not yet operational, the new Sentinel-1A satellite has provided radar data for mapping the floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sentinel-1 helping Cyclone Roanu relief

May 27, 2016

Cyclone Roanu has claimed over 100 lives in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and has left tens of thousands in need of aid. Officials are looking to the sky for information on flooded areas to analyse the cyclone's aftermath and ...

Copernicus 20 years on

June 22, 2018

This week marks 20 years since the manifesto was signed that gave rise to Europe's Copernicus environmental programme. With seven Sentinel satellites already in orbit delivering terabytes of data every day, Copernicus is ...

Sentinel-1 sees through hurricanes

October 25, 2017

This year's Atlantic hurricane season has been a harsh reminder of the grief and devastation brought by these vast storms. Imaging the top of hurricanes from space is nothing new, but the Sentinel-1 satellites can see right ...

Recommended for you

A damming trend

December 14, 2018

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences—affecting everything from food security to the environment—greatly outweigh the positive ...

Data from Kilauea suggests the eruption was unprecedented

December 14, 2018

A very large team of researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. has concluded that the Kilauea volcanic eruption that occurred over this past summer represented an unprecedented volcanic event. In their paper published ...

The long dry: global water supplies are shrinking

December 13, 2018

A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like ...

Death near the shoreline, not life on land

December 13, 2018

Our understanding of when the very first animals started living on land is helped by identifying trace fossils—the tracks and trails left by ancient animals—in sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the continents.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.