ESA satellite helps manage German floods

ESA satellite helps manage German floods

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Germany, 17 April 2006: European Space Agency’s (ESA) ERS-2 satellite has been helping German authorities monitor and attempt to mitigate the effects of torrential rains and melting snow, which caused the Elbe River to rise to a record high level in northern parts of the country last weekend, flooding cities and damaging historic town centers.

The medieval city of Hitzacker, located in Lower Saxony about 100 km from the Baltic Sea, was one of the hardest-hit areas. There, the Elbe rose 7.63 meters above its normal level on April 9, threatening severe damage to historic houses, some of which are over 400 years old.

When the Elbe floods began, the German Joint Information and Situation Centre requested maps of the flooded region. In response, the Charter members recruited the German Aerospace Center to produce the maps using satellite images provided by the space agencies. The DLR used ERS-2 Synthetic Aperture Radar images to delineate the flooded areas.

Flood-protection and water-management agencies in the German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony, along with the city of Dresden’s Department for Environment, used the ERS-2 maps. The police department of Potsdam also used the information to coordinate their forces.

The DLR performed the service under the scope of the Risk-EOS service network – an initiative of ESA offering EO-based operational services for flood risk management, including rapid mapping of major disasters.