Building a Flood-Warning Framework for Ungauged Locations Using Low Resolution, Open-Access Remotely Sensed Surface Soil Moisture, Precipitation, Soil, and Topographic Information

Seokhyeon Kim, Kyungrock Paik, Fiona M. Johnson, Ashish Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Soil moisture (SM) plays an important role in determining the antecedent condition of a watershed, while topographic attributes define how and where SM and rainfall interact to create floods. Based on this principle, we present a method to identify flood risk at a location in a watershed by using remotely sensed SM and open-access information on rainfall, soil properties, and topography. The method consists of three hydrologic modules that represent the generation, transfer, and accumulation of direct runoff. To simplify the modeling and provide timely warnings, the flood risk is ascertained based on frequency of exceedance, with warnings issued if above a specified threshold. The simplicity of the method is highlighted by the use of only three parameters for each watershed of interest, with effective regionalization allowing use in ungauged watersheds. For this proof-of-concept study, the proposed model was calibrated and tested for 65 hydrologic reference stations in the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia over a 35-year study period by using satellite-derived surface SM. The three model parameters were first estimated using the first ten-year data and then the model performance was evaluated through flood threshold exceedance analyses over the remaining 25-year study period. The results for estimated parameters and skill scores showed promise. The three model parameters can be regionalized as a function of watershed characteristics, and/or representative values estimated from neighboring watersheds, allowing use in ungauged basins everywhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-387
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received December 3, 2017; revised December 29, 2017; accepted January 2, 2018. Date of publication January 30, 2018; date of current version February 12, 2018. This work was undertaken as part of a Discovery Project (DP140102394) funded by the Australian Research Council. The work of S. Kim was supported by the University of New South Wales Tuition Fee Scholarship and School Postdoctoral Writing Fellowship. The work of K. Paik was supported by the Korea University Grant. (Corresponding author: Ashish Sharma.) S. Kim, F. M. Johnson, and A. Sharma are with the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia (e-mail:;;

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 IEEE.


  • European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (ESA CCI)
  • flood warning
  • parameter regionalization
  • remote sensing
  • soil moisture (SM)
  • soil moisture active passive (SMAP)
  • ungauged basins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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