Science at Work: Flood Monitoring

Science at Work: Flood Monitoring


Picture this. You're the mayor of a small town located right next to a river. It's spring time, the snow's melting and you're experiencing unusually high rainfall. The water level of the normally peaceful river is at an all time high and now your town is under a flood alert. What do you do?

Welcome to Science at Work, a video series where we showcase the great work of the scientists and engineers at Natural Resources Canada.

Natural Resources Canada is the federal centre of expertise for remote sensing, which is the science of using technologies such as satellite imagery and aerial photographs to detect information about objects on earth.

Our scientists use remote sensing information for a variety of reasons that you might expect, like map making, environmental monitoring, and assisting with the development of natural resources. But remote sensing can also be a valuable tool in emergency situations, such as a major flood.

While floods can have positive benefits, such as replenishing nutrients in the soil and helping to maintain ecosystems around rivers, they can also destroy animal habitats, damage urban and rural infrastructure, and even cause loss of life.

Using near real time satellite imagery, Natural Resources Canada scientists can develop maps that monitor the progress of a flood.

These maps serve many purposes. They can help emergency responders determine where to focus rescue efforts, assess water levels, help determine the extent of the damages, and identify areas that could potentially be affected by the flood.

Our scientists are also using this technology to monitor river ice break up in Northern Ontario. When the weather gets warmer in the spring and rivers start to thaw, the current carries big chunks of ice. This can create ice jams and cause dangerous floods.

So, if you were the mayor of that small town experiencing an emergency situation, know that the government of Canada can help. Flood mapping is just one of the many ways that we at Natural Resources Canada are working to improve the quality of life of Canadians.

To learn more about remote sensing and how Natural Resources Canada contributes to flood monitoring efforts, please visit our Web site below.

Thank you and see you next time