A tool that generates street-level maps of areas with high flood risk promises to aid future disaster planning as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

The free online World Flood Mapping Tool is geared particularly towards countries in the global South, where flood risk maps are rarely available and often out-dated, and where communities are most vulnerable.

According to the World Bank, 89 percent of people exposed to flood risk live in low- and middle-income countries, which often lack the infrastructure to cope.

The tool, developed by the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INVEH) with Google and other partners, uses the Google Earth engine combined with satellite (Landsat) data from 1985 onwards. Besides detailed maps of flooding during this period, it has overlays showing population, buildings, and land use to help in the planning of resilient developments and infrastructure.

“With limited resources to observe and record previous floods, the global South can use this tool as an alternative to finding out inundation distributions in the past. Those are essential in identifying vulnerable areas for floods which can be considered in future flood risk management actions,” Hamid Mehmood, a UNU-INWEH remote sensing specialist who led the tool’s development, tells SciDev.Net.

Read the full article about street level maps by Melanie Sison at Environmental News Network.