A decadal historical satellite data and rainfall trend analysis (2001–2016) for flood hazard mapping in Sri Lanka

Critical information on a flood-affected area is needed in a short time frame to initiate rapid response operations and develop long-term flood management strategies. This study combined rainfall trend analysis using Asian Precipitation—Highly Resolved Observational Data Integration towards Evaluation of Water Resources (APHRODITE) gridded rainfall data with flood maps derived from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and multispectral satellite to arrive at holistic spatio-temporal patterns of floods in Sri Lanka. Advanced Land Observing Satellite Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (ALOS PALSAR) data were used to map flood extents for emergency relief operations while eight-day Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) surface reflectance data for the time period from 2001 to 2016 were used to map long term flood-affected areas. The inundation maps produced for rapid response were published within three hours upon the availability of satellite imagery in web platforms, with the aim of supporting a wide range of stakeholders in emergency response and flood relief operations. The aggregated time series of flood extents mapped using MODIS data were used to develop a flood occurrence map (2001–2016) for Sri Lanka. Flood hotpots identified using both optical and synthetic aperture average of 325 km2 for the years 2006–2015 and exceptional flooding in 2016 with inundation extent of approximately 1400 km2. The time series rainfall data explains increasing trend in the extreme rainfall indices with similar observation derived from satellite imagery. The results demonstrate the feasibility of using multi-sensor flood mapping approaches, which will aid Disaster Management Center (DMC) and other multi-lateral agencies involved in managing rapid response operations and preparing mitigation measures.