Flood Detection in Urban Areas Using TerraSAR-X

DC Mason, R Speck, B Devereux, GJ-P Schumann, JC Neal, PD Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

227 Citations (Scopus)


Flooding is a major hazard in both rural and urban areas worldwide, but it is in urban areas that the impacts are most severe. An investigation of the ability of high-resolution TerraSAR-X synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data to detect flooded regions in urban areas is described. The study uses a TerraSAR-X image of a one-in-150-year flood near Tewkesbury, U.K., in 2007, for which contemporaneous aerial photography exists for validation. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) SAR end-to-end simulator (SETES) was used in conjunction with airborne scanning laser altimetry (LiDAR) data to estimate regions of the image in which water would not be visible due to shadow or layover caused by buildings and taller vegetation. A semiautomatic algorithm for the detection of floodwater in urban areas is described, together with its validation using aerial photographs. Of the urban water pixels that are visible to TerraSAR-X, 76% were correctly detected, with an associated false positive rate of 25%. If all the urban water pixels were considered, including those in shadow and layover regions, these figures fell to 58% and 19%, respectively. The algorithm is aimed at producing urban flood extents with which to calibrate and validate urban flood inundation models, and these findings indicate that TerraSAR-X is capable of providing useful data for this purpose.
Translated title of the contributionFlood Detection in Urban Areas Using TerraSAR-X
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882 - 894
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


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