A near real-time flood detection algorithm giving a synoptic overview of the extent of flooding in both urban and rural areas, and capable of working during night-time and day-time even if cloud was present, could be a useful tool for operational flood relief management. The paper describes an automatic algorithm using high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite data that builds on existing approaches, including the use of image segmentation techniques prior to object classification to cope with the very large number of pixels in these scenes. Flood detection in urban areas is guided by the flood extent derived in adjacent rural areas. The algorithm assumes that high resolution topographic height data are available for at least the urban areas of the scene, in order that a SAR simulator may be used to estimate areas of radar shadow and layover. The algorithm proved capable of detecting flooding in rural areas using TerraSAR-X with good accuracy, and in urban areas with reasonable accuracy. The accuracy was reduced in urban areas partly because of TerraSAR-X’s restricted visibility of the ground surface due to radar shadow and layover
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