New satellite data reveal increasing proportion of the world’s population exposed to floods

24 Oct, 2022
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New research in the journal Nature used direct satellite observations of floods to reveal that the proportion of the world’s population exposed to floods has grown by 24% since the turn of the century – 10 times higher than scientists previously thought – due to both increased flooding and population migration.

This marks an increase of population inside flood-prone regions of up to 86 million people, according to a team of researchers led by scientists at Cloud to Street, a global flood tracking and risk analytics company for disaster managers and insurers.

“We found that economic development and people moving into flood-prone areas is significantly increasing the number of people exposed to floods in those regions. Furthermore, increasing flood exposure is rooted in underlying conditions that give vulnerable populations no choice but to settle in flood zones,” said study co-lead author Jonathan Sullivan.

“Without greater attention to land-use zoning and provisioning of affordable, safe housing alternatives for the poor who have little choice, it’s likely these trends will continue,” said Sullivan, an expert on satellite-imagery analysis who worked on the flooding project throughout his time at U-M and who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.

Powered by twice daily, global satellite imaging, the Global Flood Database has mapped and analyzed 913 flood events in 169 countries since 2000.

Most of the flood events in the database were caused by heavy rainfall. The other top causes, in order of frequency, are tropical storms or surge, snow or ice melt, and dam breaks.

Source: Nature

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