TerraSAR-X aids emergency response to floods in Andalusia

The science community is in no doubt that extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and windstorms are increasing in intensity and frequency. Emergency management agencies are therefore turning to radar satellite imagery to obtain useful geographic information rapidly.

In the event of a crisis, radar imagery offers:

  • A survey of affected areas whatever the weather conditions
  • A wide-area map within 48 hours
  • Operational decision and field support
Floods in Andalusia - Juan José Vales Bravo

We were extremely satisfied with the service you provided using TerraSAR-X radar-sensor technology. In 2010, we were able to map the areas that flooded when the Guadalquivir and Guadalete rivers burst their banks.
What we appreciated especially was the ability to acquire data even through permanent cloud cover and to estimate flooding in real time without any need for a hydraulic model. We were also impressed with the speed of data delivery, their reliability and the excellent service offered by Infoterra Spain in general.

Juan José Vales Bravo Photogrammetry and remote-sensing manager EGMASA



Floods in Andalusia - Meteosat satellite image, 27/02/2010

Spain drenched by torrential rains


During the winter of 2009-2010, rains are lashing the Iberian Peninsula.

In February 2010, torrential downpours persist for several weeks in Andalusia, normally a very dry region of the country.

The human and economic impacts are heightened when the Guadalquivir River bursts its banks, forcing the authorities to evacuate populations and to close motorways and Jerez airport.


Floods in Andalucia - EGMASA logo

Request from the Andalusian water agency

EGMASA, the Andalusian environment and water agency, is tasked with providing environmental protection support in emergency situations.

The agency was required to supply a map to the Junta de Andalucía during the emergency phase of the crisis.
To rapidly survey flooded areas, it requested radar data from Airbus Defence and Space in Barcelona.


Floods in Andalusia - TerraSAR-X Programmation form February 27th to March 8th

TerraSAR-X Programmation form February 27th to March 8th

Emergency imaging of five areas

The TerraSAR-X satellite was immediately tasked to acquire imagery of 4 areas along the Guadalquivir—at Lora del Río, Seville, Cordoba and Andujar—and of another area further south at Jerez de la Frontera. The 1st images were delivered to the agency within 24 hours. Acquisitions were spread over 10 days, from 27 February to 8 March.

Automatic vectorisation of flood areas

Standing water has a characteristic spectral signature in radar images. Flood areas were extracted from the radar image by segmentation and then vectorised. The vector layer was checked and then draped over an optical satellite image. A 1:25 000 map was generated to highlight the impact of the floods.

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Floods in Andalusia - Map of floods on February 27th 2010 in Lora del Rio

Map of floods on February 27th 2010 in Lora del Rio

Delivery in 48 hours

Maps of the flood areas were delivered within 48 hours of image acquisition.

Thanks to the radar sensor technology and automated data production process, accurate wide-area geographic information was supplied rapidly in the heat of the crisis.

The radar sensor “sees through” clouds to provide a picture of the situation on the ground.

Emergency Response to Floods in Andalusia

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