Preparing for Floods with Satellite Data: SERVIR in Bangladesh
In the summer of 2014, unusually severe flooding in Bangladesh displaced more than 275,000 people and destroyed more than 31,000 homes. An experimental flood forecasting system, developed by SERVIR, used data from NASA’s Jason-2 satellite to predict the flooding eight days in advance—the longest lead time ever for a flood forecast in Bangladesh. Based on the efficacy of this satellite-based approach, Bangladeshi officials recently announced plans to expand it for nationwide use as an operational flood forecasting and warning system.
Flooding affects millions of people in Bangladesh every year. Previously, forecasts and warnings have only been available 3–5 days in advance because of reliance on conventional ground-based networks, which don’t extend into countries upstream from Bangladesh. Jason-2's radar altimeter measures the precise distance between the satellite and the river surface, revealing the river’s height at upstream locations. The data, available almost immediately, allow officials to assess flood risks downstream.
What is SERVIR?
SERVIR—meaning “to serve” in Spanish—is a joint initiative that connects USAID’s expertise in international development and training with NASA’s portfolio of satellite observations. Its goal is to help decision makers in developing regions respond to