By Mir Matin, Kabir Uddin, Kiran Shakya, Sudip Pradhan, Birendra Bajracharya & Franz Mayer
The monsoon floods in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region are worsening the humanitarian crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and India. Millions of people have been affected in Nepal, India (Bihar and Assam), and Bangladesh. The crisis is far from over, with more monsoon rain forecast in the coming days and weeks.
In this context, timely information on current and upcoming floods can help government and humanitarian agencies manage disaster response and relief activities better. Here at ICIMOD, we have been working with national agencies in the region to provide support for streamflow prediction and satellite-based inundation mapping.
Streamflow prediction for flood warning
With technical assistance from NASA and Brigham Young University, our SERVIR-HKH Initiative has developed a streamflow prediction system to support flood early warning. The regional streamflow prediction system, which is based on the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), can be accessed at http://tethys.icimod.org/apps/streamflowhkh/. The system predicts streamflow in a river for 10 days.
Additionally, a streamflow prediction system for Nepal has also been developed on the basis of an ensemble weather forecast to provide 48-hour flow predictions based on local rainfall to support flash flood warning. We have been jointly validating the system with the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Government of Nepal. The system can be accessed at http://tethys.icimod.org/apps/hiwatnepal/.
Flood inundation mapping
We have worked on using synthetic-aperture radar satellite remote sensing to provide near real-time inundation maps for supporting flood response, such as during the 2019 Bangladesh floods. Flood inundation maps for the region are prepared with latest available satellite imagery and an application has been developed to visualize the inundation. The application can be accessed at http://geoapps.icimod.org/Flood2020/. Currently, we are developing an automated flood inundation mapping system in collaboration with NASA and University of Alaska Fairbanks under a NASA Applied Science Project.