Document Type



Urban flooding poses risks to the safety of drivers and pedestrians, and damages infrastructures and lifelines. It is important to accommodate cities and local agencies with enhanced rapid flood detection skills and tools to better understand how much flooding a region may experience at a certain period of time. This results in flood management orders being announced in a timely manner, allowing residents and drivers to preemptively avoid flooded areas. This research combines information received from ground observed data derived from road closure reports from the police department, with remotely sensed satellite imagery to develop and train machine-learning models for flood detection for the City of San Diego, CA, USA. For this purpose, flooding information are extracted from Sentinel 1 satellite imagery and fed into various supervised and unsupervised machine learning models, including Random Forest (RF), Support Vector Machine (SVM), and Maximum Likelihood Classifier (MLC), to detect flooded pixels in images and evaluate the performance of these ML models. Moreover, a new unsupervised machine learning framework is developed which works based on the change detection (CD) approach and combines the Otsu algorithm, fuzzy rules, and iso-clustering methods for urban flood detection. Results from the performance evaluation of RF, SVM, MLC and CD models show 0.53, 0.85, 0.75 and 0.81 precision measures, 0.9, 0.85, 0.85 and 0.9 for recall values, 0.67, 0.85, 0.79 and 0.85 for the F1-score, and 0.69, 0.87, 0.83 and 0.87 for the accuracy measure, respectively, for each model. In conclusion, the new unsupervised flood image classification and detection method offers better performance with the least required data and computational time for enhanced rapid flood mapping. This systematic approach will be potentially useful for other cities at risk of urban flooding, and hopefully for detecting nuisance floods, by using satellite images and reducing the flood risk of transportation design and urban infrastructure planning.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Tanim, A. H., McRae, C. B., Tavakol-Davani, H., & Goharian, E. (2022). Flood detection in urban areas using satellite imagery and machine learning. Water, 14(7), Article 7.