Saving Lives and Reducing Property Damage Using Satellite Images

West Palm Beach, Fla. – Detailed images provided by advanced radar satellites offer a new and important source of up-to-date information for emergency response teams and coastal monitoring crews after destructive storm events, such as hurricanes.

More and more satellites are using highly developed technology, such as synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which provides timely images to help monitor the extent, depth, and frequency of flooding from a specific hurricane system, according to a new study published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Coastal Research.

In their article, ‘A Case of Timely Satellite Image Acquisitions in Support of Coastal Emergency Environmental Response Management’, Ramsey III et al. proclaim how “cloud-penetrating sensors have recently proven to be valuable tools for surveying land and water surfaces during weather-related emergencies.” (Vol. 25(5):1168-1172)

Without these satellite acquisitions, it can be difficult to get cloud-free radar images during tropical storms and hurricanes, according to the authors. All too often, emergency response managers cannot get real-time images of the coastal flooding extents from storm surges, so they must retroactively respond to such natural disasters rather than deal with them proactively and strategically.

One example of using satellite imagery to aid emergency responders occurred in September 2008 over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas, during Hurricane Ike. As the hurricane approached, Texas officials requested access to images from international satellites, knowing that this time-critical information could help save lives and reduce property damage. The images also helped them identify conditions that affect coastal resources and sustainability.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other officials used these images to quickly determine the extent of coastal flooding in southwest Louisiana and Texas, and to plan search and rescue efforts.

Detailed images are useful when assessing coastal areas and predicting threatening trends. Soon after Hurricane Ike, the images revealed cloudy areas caused by wind-roughed water surfaces. Later in September, officials compared coastal images with others before the hurricane to determine areas of marsh dieback, confirming saltwater intrusion during the storm surge.

“The day-and-night and nearly all-weather mapping capabilities provided by SAR technology shift data acquisition planning from the realm of target of opportunity to that of strategic deployment,” according to the JCR article.

To read the entire article and find out more about this important topic, go to


About the Journal of Coastal Research
The Journal of Coastal Research (JCR) is an official publication of The Coastal Education and Research Foundation [CERF] and is published six times a year. JCR is peer-reviewed and encompasses all subjects relevant to natural and engineered environments (freshwater, brackish or marine) and the protection-management of their resources in the vicinity of coastlines of the world. To subscribe and learn more about the JCR, please visit: