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The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30. Throughout the season, the U.S. Geological Survey will be providing science that can help guide efforts to protect lives and property if a storm threatens the U.S.

The U.S. Geological Survey is well-known for providing the nation high-quality geologic and topographic maps. A lessor known role the USGS fills during some hurricanes and tropical storms is providing disaster response communities access to a variety of state-of-the-art geospatial data, tools, maps, imagery, elevation data and more. These products can aid local, state and federal agencies as they make decisions that can protect lives and property.

First responders often rely on the USGS National Geospatial Program, which collects, archives and shares digital records of the nation’s topography, natural landscape and human-made environment. The program’s Geospatial Information Response Team works within the USGS and with partner agencies to provide key information to those responding to a major hurricane or other hazard. The information is shown on event support maps built as a multi-layered mapping applications that provide a big-picture view of a storm’s impacts, or a close-up of a specific community.

The Geospatial Information Response Team also works with the USGS Earth Resource Observation and Science Center to coordinate the archiving of location-based storm data and make it accessible. The center provides access to remotely sensed imagery and geospatial datasets in response to requests from agencies engaged in disaster response. These products enable agencies to plan responses according to current conditions on the ground. The imagery and other geospatial datasets are available on the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System. A significant amount of the imagery and data provided by the USGS Earth Resource Observation Science Center come from the Landsat satellite program, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

To analyze field data gathered after a storm, USGS scientists need detailed information about land elevation, which is provided by the USGS 3D Elevation Program. The program collects data using lidar – a technique that uses light pulses to produce high resolution elevation imagery – over the U.S. and its territories. These data are used for mapping storms’ flood inundation, modeling storm surge, evaluating topographic changes, such as beach and dune erosion, and pinpointing damage to buildings and other infrastructure. Up-to-date elevation data are also essential for supporting infrastructure repair and redevelopment after a storm. This information is being acquired nationwide and is available on The National Map

These before and after images show damage, lose of foliage and flooding caused by Hurricane Michael after it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, in 2018. These photos come from the Landsat satellite program, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.


*Editor’s note: The photo at the top of the story shows a 3D flood inundation map of Port Neches, Texas, created using USGS lidar and high-water marks after Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017. High-resolution elevation data and maps like this serve post-hurricane recovery efforts and are critical for hazard mitigation policies, assessing coastal landscape change and vulnerability, redevelopment planning, and emergency preparedness and disaster response. USGS image.

In case you missed them, here are links to previous posts in this series:

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