Close-up of a flooded river. Credit: Tomasz Zajda

Widespread flooding in the Middle East

24 March 2019 00:00 UTC–25 March 00:00 UTC, 31 March 03:00–08:00 UTC, 8 April 2019 04:00–13:00 UTC

Close-up of a flooded river. Credit: Tomasz Zajda
Close-up of a flooded river. Credit: Tomasz Zajda

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

Last Updated

07 December 2022

Published on

23 March 2019

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.

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

Aqua MODIS True Color, 10 April 2019, 09:52 UTC compare1

Figure 5: Comparison of MODIS True Color RGB images from April 2018 and April 2019 showing the extent of the flooding.