The real-time flood inundation extent plays an important role in flood disaster preparation and reduction. To date, many approaches have been developed for determining the flood extent, such as hydrodynamic models, digital elevation model-based (DEM-based) methods, and remote sensing methods. However, hydrodynamic methods are time consuming when applied to large floodplains, high-resolution DEMs are not always available, and remote sensing imagery cannot be used alone to predict inundation. In this article, a new model for the highly accurate and rapid simulation of floodplains, called “RFim” (real-time inundation model), is proposed to simulate the real-time flooded area. The model combines remote sensing images with in situ data to find the relationship between the inundation extent and water level. The new approach takes advantage of remote sensing images, which have wide spatial coverage and high resolution, and in situ observations, which have continuous temporal coverage and are easily accessible. This approach has been applied in the study area of East Dongting Lake, representing a large floodplain, for inundation simulation at a 30 m resolution. Compared with the submerged extent from observations, the accuracy of the simulation could be more than 90% (the lowest is 93%, and the highest is 96%). Hence, the approach proposed in this study is reliable for predicting the flood extent. Moreover, an inundation simulation for all of 2013 was performed with daily water level observation data. With an increasing number of Earth observation satellites operating in space and high-resolution mappers deployed on satellites, it will be much easier to acquire large quantities of images with very high resolutions. Therefore, the use of RFim to perform inundation simulations with high accuracy and high spatial resolutions in the future is promising because the simulation model is built on remote sensing imagery and gauging station data.
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