Multispectral Imaging for Identification of High-Water Marks in Postdisaster Flood Reconnaissance

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Flooding annually causes thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage globally. Predicting future floods has become increasingly challenging due to changing urban environments and land surface conditions. Simultaneously, severe floods are likely to increase due to climate change and associated shifts in rain patterns, resulting into potentially stronger and more consequential flood events. High-water marks represent key information to be collected after flooding for advancing the understanding of flood impacts and the development of mitigation strategies. However, high-water marks often become increasingly difficult to detect with time passing after a flood event due to drying. In addition, access into flooded areas can be complicated by destroyed infrastructure, leading to significant loss of data or risk to personnel entering these recently flooded areas. Here, initial data are presented demonstrating the application of multispectral imagery in rapidly collecting and mapping high-water marks after flooding. The multispectral images were collected 3-4 weeks after the July 14, 2021, western European flood events in the town of Mayschoss, Germany, along the Ahr River. At that time, affected buildings, walls, and soil were exposed to high summer temperatures and solar radiation, as well as dust from surrounding emergency response and repair works. High-water marks were barely visible by eye. Preliminary results showed the high-water mark is significantly enhanced in the blue band (wavelength 443 to 507 nm) and can be modally isolated through linear combination of the blue band and red-edge band (wavelength 705 to 729 nm). The results illustrate the potential to apply this technique in postdisaster reconnaissance to quickly and safely map high-water levels to identify the magnitude and extent of flooding in urban areas.

Flooding, Imaging