Bob Kuligowski – On Using Satellite Data to Monitor Flash Floods


The big reason why floods are so deadly, and
according to the United Nations International Flood Initiative, there’s about half a billion
people every year affected by them, about twenty five thousand who are killed by them,
warning is a very crucial component to saving lives and saving property; if you don’t know
what’s happening it hits you, and by the time you see it coming it’s too late to do anything
about it. And a lot of flood disasters happen because either precipitation moves in from
off shore where no one knows that this horrific heavy rain event is coming, or you get heavy
rain in some remote area that’s very mountainous, and the landslides and flash floods come down,
and again, no one knows that it’s coming. But the whole point is that we have RADAR
information in places like the United States, you’ve got this multi-billion dollar radar
network, we’ve got rain gauges in a lot of developing nations, but a lot of countries
don’t have the economic wherewithal to make those kinds of investments. There’s a lot
of other things that have to take precedence; and for good reasons. And so satellites give
us an affordable way to get this kind of information into different countries, where instead of
having to spend tremendous amounts of money on all of this infrastructure the satellites
are already in place, the science is already there, and we’re able to share this information
with other countries and make it available to them. Specifically we use cloud imagery
from geostationary satellites and rely on the temperature of the clouds that you can
get in the infrared. The basic idea is that colder clouds are generally higher in the
atmosphere, they’re thicker, they have more moisture in them, they produce heavier rainfall
in general; it’s not a perfect relationship but it works pretty well especially for those
heavy thunderstorm type events that produce those quick-response flash floods that kill
a lot of people. It’s only been the last few years that we’ve been interacting with weather
forecasters in Central America and southern Africa, in the Mekong Delta, in Pakistan and
Haiti, and we’re getting information from a whole bunch of different places where we
just never knew before how good our estimates are. The fact that people out there are using
our data to make decisions, and the fact that those decisions are making sometimes very
profound differences in people’s lives is the part that I really get the most gratification
out of. The fact that somebody may be alive today, that a family may be in one piece today
because they got information that I maybe in some small part helped provide, is the
part that I find the most gratifying.

1 thought on “Bob Kuligowski – On Using Satellite Data to Monitor Flash Floods

  1. oh please you americans are too all for yourselves. you only provide radars for your countries, the US, hawaii and puerto rico -_-. you should've placed them all over the Caribbean, omg look @ haiti, the dominican republic and jamaica no radar whatsoever and you talking bout the satellites are there, even when the clouds are not so visible there is still rain afoot, so plz think about that, please respond, i'd like to hear what you have to say

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