• Enhancing Floodplain Management in the Lower Mekong River Basin Using NASA Vegetation and Water Cycle Satellite Observations
Program Disasters Program
PI / Institution John D Bolten / GSFC
Start Date January 1, 2013
End Date December 31, 2013
  • Summary

    The Lower Mekong River basin (Figure 1), shared by China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, is considered the lifeblood of southeast Asia. It is home to approximately 60 million people, many of whom are dependent on the Mekong river for their well being. It is estimated that as much as 75% of the regions population is employed in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Insufficient flood and drought monitoring and mitigation undermine food security and upset stability in the region. As a result, the Lower Mekong River basin remains prone to severe annual floods that continue to cause widespread damage to unprepared communities and endanger food security and the livelihood of the millions who dwell in the region. For example, the recent Mekong River flooding during the 2011 monsoon season affected over 2.3 million people, and caused damages estimated at up to 5.1 billion USD1. In April 1995, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, signed the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin. This agreement formed the Mekong River Commission (MRC), a platform which holds an official dialogue with these and two other countries of the Mekong River Basin, China and Myanmar, are not signatories of the 1995 Agreement. Decision support and data management for MRC is facilitated through the Information and Knowledge Management Program (IKMP). Fundamental to the basin modeling and analysis capabilities at IKMP is the Decision Support Framework (DSF) which is a state-of-the-art support system combining hydrological, basin simulation, and hydrodynamic models and an Impact Analysis Tool (IAT) used to monitor and model the Mekong river for disaster mitigation and river basin planning. The hydrological modeling at IKMP is based on the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model software, which is applied over the LMB to simulate catchment runoff in the basin and force the river routing and flood forecasting models. The goal of this project is to provide the Mekong River Commission with an enhanced version of the SWAT model software including a custom designed visualization tool for the SWAT model outputs. This will be accomplished by integrating improved maps of Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) and near real-time estimates of remotely-sensed surface and root-zone soil moisture into the SWAT model. This strategy was chosen in direct response to limitations of the SWAT model highlighted by our counterparts at IKMP. To this end, we envisage that the proposed project will result in an enhanced Decision Support Framework for MRC and will be fundamental in their Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Program. During the Phase 1 Feasibility Study of the proposed study, we will work with our MRC counterparts to develop and evaluate the enhancement of the Lower Mekong SWAT model for improved flood forecasting capabilities. The major tasks in of the proposed work are shown in Figure 2 and include: (1) Development of an improved map of land use and land cover for the Lower Mekong River Basin using observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Landsat. (2) Assimilation of remotely-sensed soil moisture observations (SMOS, AMSR2, SMAP) over the Lower Mekong River Basin into the NASA Land Information System. (3) Updating and incorporating remotely-sensed data in the enhanced LMRB SWAT model. (4) The Graphic Visualization Tool (GVT) will be incorporated into the enhanced LMRB SWAT model. The MRC will serve as the primary operational partner in this initiative. Through dialog with the MRC Secretariat and affiliated National Mekong Committees (NMC), the science team will tailor analyses to meet the resource planning needs of the end users. Over the course of the project, initial results from the enhanced LMRB SWAT model will be transferred to the MRC for use by participating agencies.