Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Atmospheric and Earth Science

Committee Chair

Robert Griffin

Committee Member

Andrew C. Molthan

Committee Member

John R. Mecikalski


Hurricane Florence 2018., Land cover--Remote sensing., Floods--Remote sensing., Machine learning., Synthetic aperture radar.


During and after flooding events, mapping the extent of floodwaters aids in the distribution of resources, recovery efforts, and damage assessment practices. Development of a land cover classification system focused on mapping inundation after major hurricane events using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data could allow for the production of near-real-time inundation mapping, enabling government and emergency response entities to get a preliminary idea of a developing situation. In response to Hurricane Florence of 2018, NASA JPL collected numerous swaths of quad-pol L-band SAR data with the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) instrument observing the record-setting river stages across North and South Carolina. The resulting fully-polarized SAR images allow for mapping of inundation extent at a high spatial resolution with a unique advantage over optical imaging stemming from the sensor’s ability to penetrate cloud cover and dense vegetation.

This study seeks to determine how accurately maps of inundation can be generated from L-band SAR imagery through Random Forest classification. Once the extent of water and inundated vegetation is classified, cleanup operations are performed using fuzzy logic to reduce false detections. Depth estimates are calculated to provide further insight into the severity of flooding present in each scene. Estimates of water extent are then combined with datasets describing the distribution of population, buildings, and roads throughout the domain to evaluate societal impacts. Results from the Hurricane Florence case study will be discussed in addition to the limitations of available validation data for assessment of the classifier’s accuracy.



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