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Inundation Extent Mapping by Synthetic Aperture Radar: A Review

Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
Eversource Energy Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing 100094, China
Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning (IARRP), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Beijing 100081, China
Advanced Radar Research Center (ARRC), University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73072, USA
Institute of Remote Sensing and GIS, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(7), 879;
Received: 6 March 2019 / Revised: 5 April 2019 / Accepted: 6 April 2019 / Published: 11 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue SAR for Natural Hazard)
PDF [1803 KB, uploaded 11 April 2019]


Recent flood events have demonstrated a demand for satellite-based inundation mapping in near real-time (NRT). Simulating and forecasting flood extent is essential for risk mitigation. While numerical models are designed to provide such information, they usually lack reference at fine spatiotemporal resolution. Remote sensing techniques are expected to fill this void. Unlike optical sensors, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) provides valid measurements through cloud cover with high resolution and increasing sampling frequency from multiple missions. This study reviews theories and algorithms of flood inundation mapping using SAR data, together with a discussion of their strengths and limitations, focusing on the level of automation, robustness, and accuracy. We find that the automation and robustness of non-obstructed inundation mapping have been achieved in this era of big earth observation (EO) data with acceptable accuracy. They are not yet satisfactory, however, for the detection of beneath-vegetation flood mapping using L-band or multi-polarized (dual or fully) SAR data or for urban flood detection using fine-resolution SAR and ancillary building and topographic data. View Full-Text
Keywords: flood inundation mapping; synthetic aperture radar; microwave remote sensing; natural hazard flood inundation mapping; synthetic aperture radar; microwave remote sensing; natural hazard

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Shen, X.; Wang, D.; Mao, K.; Anagnostou, E.; Hong, Y. Inundation Extent Mapping by Synthetic Aperture Radar: A Review. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 879.

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