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  1. Flood events have become intense and more frequent due to heavy rainfall and hurricanes caused by global warming. Accurate floodwater extent maps are essential information sources for emergency management agencies and flood relief programs to direct their resources to the most affected areas. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data are superior to optical data for floodwater mapping, especially in vegetated areas and in forests that are adjacent to urban areas and critical infrastructures. Investigating floodwater mapping with various available SAR sensors and comparing their performance allows the identification of suitable SAR sensors that can be used to map inundated areas in different land covers, such as forests and vegetated areas. In this study, we investigated the performance of polarization configurations for flood boundary delineation in vegetated and open areas derived from Sentinel1b, C-band, and Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) L-band data collected during flood events resulting from Hurricane Florence in the eastern area of North Carolina. The datasets from the sensors for the flooding event collected on the same day and same study area were processed and classified for five landcover classes using a machine learning method—the Random Forest classification algorithm. We compared the classification results of linear, dual,more »and full polarizations of the SAR datasets. The L-band fully polarized data classification achieved the highest accuracy for flood mapping as the decomposition of fully polarized SAR data allows land cover features to be identified based on their scattering mechanisms.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Inundation mapping is a critical task for damage assessment, emergency management, and prioritizing relief efforts during a flooding event. Remote sensing has been an effective tool for interpreting and analyzing water bodies and detecting floods over the past decades. In recent years, deep learning algorithms such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have demonstrated promising performance for remote sensing image classification for many applications, including inundation mapping. Unlike conventional algorithms, deep learning can learn features automatically from large datasets. This research aims to compare and investigate the performance of two state-of-the-art methods for 3D inundation mapping: a deep learning-based image analysis and a Geomorphic Flood Index (GFI). The first method, deep learning image analysis involves three steps: 1) image classification to delineate flood boundaries, 2) integrate the flood boundaries and topography data to create a three-dimensional (3D) water surface, and 3) compare the 3D water surface with pre-flood topography to estimate floodwater depth. The second method, i.e., GFI, involves three phases: 1) calculate a river basin morphological information, such as river height (hr) and elevation difference (H), 2) calibrate and measure GFI to delineate flood boundaries, and 3) calculate the coefficient parameter ( α ), and correct the value of hrmore »to estimate inundation depth. The methods were implemented to generate 3D inundation maps over Princeville, North Carolina, United States during hurricane Matthew in 2016. The deep learning method demonstrated better performance with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.26 m for water depth. It also achieved about 98% in delineating the flood boundaries using UAV imagery. This approach is efficient in extracting and creating a 3D flood extent map at a different scale to support emergency response and recovery activities during a flood event.« less
  3. Flood occurrence is increasing due to the expansion of urbanization and extreme weather like hurricanes; hence, research on methods of inundation monitoring and mapping has increased to reduce the severe impacts of flood disasters. This research studies and compares two methods for inundation depth estimation using UAV images and topographic data. The methods consist of three main stages: (1) extracting flooded areas and create 2D inundation polygons using deep learning; (2) reconstructing 3D water surface using the polygons and topographic data; and (3) deriving a water depth map using the 3D reconstructed water surface and a pre-flood DEM. The two methods are different at reconstructing the 3D water surface (stage 2). The first method uses structure from motion (SfM) for creating a point cloud of the area from overlapping UAV images, and the water polygons resulted from stage 1 is applied for water point cloud classification. While the second method reconstructs the water surface by intersecting the water polygons and a pre-flood DEM created using the pre-flood LiDAR data. We evaluate the proposed methods for inundation depth mapping over the Town of Princeville during a flooding event during Hurricane Matthew. The methods are compared and validated using the USGS gaugemore »water level data acquired during the flood event. The RMSEs for water depth using the SfM method and integrated method based on deep learning and DEM were 0.34m and 0.26m, respectively.« less
  4. Food desert communities face persistent barriers in accessing affordable fresh and healthy foods, particularly for the underserved and limited-resourced minority population. This research brief proposes an integrated design concept examining human-environment dynamics of food deserts to identify strategies that would provide effective planning to prevent, prepare for, or respond to disruptive events such as natural disasters or pandemics in the future. The North Carolina example we describe identifies the potential overlapping areas between food deserts and number of COVID-19 cases to demonstrate how an unpredictable event could exacerbate public health in food desert communities to a greater extent than in communities with better food access, availability, and accessibility. The improved understanding of food systems could help in addressing unprecedented challenges such as those due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  5. Flooding is one of the leading threats of natural disasters to human life and property, especially in densely populated urban areas. Rapid and precise extraction of the flooded areas is key to supporting emergency-response planning and providing damage assessment in both spatial and temporal measurements. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) technology has recently been recognized as an efficient photogrammetry data acquisition platform to quickly deliver high-resolution imagery because of its cost-effectiveness, ability to fly at lower altitudes, and ability to enter a hazardous area. Different image classification methods including SVM (Support Vector Machine) have been used for flood extent mapping. In recent years, there has been a significant improvement in remote sensing image classification using Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs). CNNs have demonstrated excellent performance on various tasks including image classification, feature extraction, and segmentation. CNNs can learn features automatically from large datasets through the organization of multi-layers of neurons and have the ability to implement nonlinear decision functions. This study investigates the potential of CNN approaches to extract flooded areas from UAV imagery. A VGG-based fully convolutional network (FCN-16s) was used in this research. The model was fine-tuned and a k-fold cross-validation was applied to estimate the performance of the modelmore »on the new UAV imagery dataset. This approach allowed FCN-16s to be trained on the datasets that contained only one hundred training samples, and resulted in a highly accurate classification. Confusion matrix was calculated to estimate the accuracy of the proposed method. The image segmentation results obtained from FCN-16s were compared from the results obtained from FCN-8s, FCN-32s and SVMs. Experimental results showed that the FCNs could extract flooded areas precisely from UAV images compared to the traditional classifiers such as SVMs. The classification accuracy achieved by FCN-16s, FCN-8s, FCN-32s, and SVM for the water class was 97.52%, 97.8%, 94.20% and 89%, respectively.« less
  6. Among the different types of natural disasters, floods are the most devastating, widespread, and frequent. Floods account for approximately 30% of the total loss caused by natural disasters. Accurate flood-risk mapping is critical in reducing such damages by correctly predicting the extent of a flood when coupled with rain and stage gage data, supporting emergency-response planning, developing land use plans and regulations with regard to the construction of structures and infrastructures, and providing damage assessment in both spatial and temporal measurements. The reliability and accuracy of such flood assessment maps is dependent on the quality of the digital elevation model (DEM) in flood conditions. This study investigates the quality of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based DEM for spatial flood assessment mapping and evaluating the extent of a flood event in Princeville, North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew. The challenges and problems of on-demand DEM production during a flooding event were discussed. An accuracy analysis was performed by comparing the water surface extracted from the UAV-derived DEM with the water surface/stage obtained using the nearby US Geologic Survey (USGS) stream gauge station and LiDAR data.