Widespread flooding in the Middle East

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Parts of the Middle East were left devastated after severe floods in late March and early April 2019.

Date & Time
24 March 00:00 UTC–25 March 00:00 UTC, 31 March 03:00–08:00 UTC, 8 April 2019 04:00–13:00 UTC
Satellites
Metop-A, Meteosat-8 & 11, Terra, Aqua
Instruments
AVHRR, SEVIRI, MODIS
Channels/Products
Natural Colour RGB, High Resolution Visible (HRV), Infrared, Convection RGB, True Color RGB

By Ivan Smiljanic (SCISYS), Jochen Kerkmann (EUMETSAT) and Sancha Lancaster (Pactum)

Heavy rainfall affected northern and southern Iran, most of Iraq and parts of Afghanistan and Syria for 10 days (24 March–2 April), triggering flash floods.

The morning view from Metop-A on 8 April (Figure 1) shows the state of flooding in the border region between Iraq and Iran, though isolated flooded areas could be found on many different places in the region.

Figure 1
 
Figure 1: Meteosat-8 AVHRR Natural Colour RGB, 8 April, 06:49 UTC
 

Widespread floods were the cumulative result of several low pressure systems passing over the region. The majority of heavy rain came from the systems that passed over on 24/25 March, 31 March/1 April and 5/6 April.

This is best seen on the animated IR10.8 channel imagery from 24/25 March (Figure 2), which shows, in colours, the coldest clouds that passed over the area during the observed period, bringing most of the rainfall.


Figure 2: Meteosat-11 enhanced infrared animation, 24 March 00:00 UTC–25 March 00:00 UTC

An example of the severity of the convective activity is highlighted in the Convection RGB animation, which shows the heavy rainfall event on 31 March (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Meteosat-8 Convection RGB animation, 31 March 03:00–08:00 UTC

The wider overview from the SEVIRI instrument (Figure 4) reveals the same major flooded patches of land in the observed domain. Flooded areas are easily detected by the satellite imagery due to the fact that solar radiation is almost completely absorbed by the water surfaces, hence the reflection is very low.


Figure 4: Meteosat-8 HRV animation, 8 April 04:00–13:00 UTC

Comparison between MODIS True Color RGB imagery (Figure 5) before and after, April 2018 v April 2019, best shows the severity of flooding. Also, by seeing more green surfaces in this RGB imagery (signal from vegetation) one could assume more rain was present in March/April 2019 than the same period the year before.

Before and after comparison
Terra MODIS True Color, 8 April 2018, 07:23 UTC Aqua MODIS True Color, 10 April 2019, 09:52 UTC
Figure 5: Comparison of MODIS True Color RGB images from April 2018 and April 2019 showing the extent of the flooding.
 

Impacts

 

In Iran, at least five people were killed in the floods in Lorestan province on 31 March. In a 24-hour period to 1 April Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan Province, recorded 106.9 mm of rain and Hamedan in Hamadan Province, recorded 98.6 mm, Approximately 100 people were injured, while hundreds of buildings were damaged across Fars Province.

The country had already endured days of flooding and heavy rain, which began in northern areas of Golestan and Mazandaran during mid-March. At least 70 people were reported to have died and in total around 56,000 people were affected by the floods.

In Iraq, floods swamped rural areas of the provinces of Wasit, Babil, Basra, and Nineveh. One person was reported dead in Wasit Province.

The heavy rain and flash flooding affected parts of northern and western Afghanistan from late on 28 March. Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh Province recorded 90 mm of rain in 24 hours. It was reported that at least 27 people died and more than 3,000 houses were destroyed.

In Syria, the flooding affected northern areas, including relief camps in Idlib Province and areas of Al-Hasakah Governorate, where it was reported that two people died.

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