By any metric — from financial ruin to the human toll — floods rank alongside earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis as the worst natural disasters. In fact, the most deadly disaster of the 20th century was the China floods of 1931, which may have resulted in more than a million deaths.
But predicting floods is notoriously difficult. Floods depend on a complex mixture of rainfall, soil moisture, the recent history of precipitation, and much more. Snowmelt and storm surges can also contribute to unexpected flooding. Thanks to NASA, however, the predictions are improving. The video above has more.
The improvements in flood prediction may be useful in the decades ahead, as rising seas bring more flooding to coastal areas. How much flooding? That question is a timely one this week, since the announcement on Monday (July 20, 2015) of a new study led by James Hansen. The study suggests that New York City – and many other coastal areas – might become uninhabitable before the end of this century. Hansen is NASA’s former climate chief, and his stark new study finds that the world’s current climate goal could be inadequate and may not prevent catastrophic losses from rising seas, ocean temperatures and changes in global weather.
While Hansen’s study has prompted a storm of both accolades and criticism on social media, this article from Climate Central appears to be one of the best follow-ups.
Bottom line: New NASA video on flood prediction
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.