Surface Water Data Record

A comprehensive record of satellite-observed changes in the Earth's inland surface water


Click on the appropriate 10 degree display sheet.

(In 2009, all displays are being reformatted to match this example.)


The Surface Water Data Record displays inland surface water changes observed by orbital remote sensing since 1985 (most intensively, since late 1999), up to the present. Water mapped during normal conditions provides a reference for comparison to water imaged during times of flood and drought. The Record also includes access to measurement site-based discharge and runoff estimates.

We are presently implementing daily or near-daily updates of surface water conditions for selected display sheets (in January, 2009, starting with that for Madagascar). This is accomplished with the use of MODIS Rapid Response Subset data and a streamlined water classification procedure.

The Surface Water Data Record, and its associated River Watch sites, also provides fundamental observational information for the determination of future flood risk. The combined information can be used to predict inundation from specific river discharges, as measured at the River Watch sites or from ground gaging stations.

As satellite-based mapping of present and past floods proceeds, an increasingly comprehensive view of the long term variability of the Earth's surface water is emerging and is recorded here. Caution: Floods in mountainous regions are difficult remote sensing targets and not always observable via satellite. Additionally, cloud cover or other imaging constraints sometimes restrict the ability to capture peak inundation, and many inventoried flood events since 1999 have not yet been mapped. The present maps do not illustrate all areas of known flood hazard.

Some regional maps from older versions of this Atlas are listed below for internal purposes. Please click on the map above to access current displays.

United States

Central America

Series of Mekong Basin Flood Hazard Maps for individual years 2000 through 2006

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006


Dartmouth Flood Observatory Homepage