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Activities in Canada

Don Raymond, Lori White, Robert Landry, Vincent Decker, Alice Deschamps, Calin Ungureanu, Goran Pavlic, Vern Singhroy, and François Charbonneau

Primary Collaborators:
Public Safety Canada
Department of National Defence
Mapping Information Branch (NRCan)
Department Emergency Operations Centre (NRCan)


The Emergency Management Team at the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) provides expert support for Natural Resources Canada’s Emergency Management Plan 4: Geomatics Support, which in turn supports the Government of Canada Emergency Management Act. CCRS plays a key role in the provision of methodologies and satellite-derived data products to facilitate emergency response. To date, the vast majority of responses have resulted from flooding events, though the team is able to respond to a wide range of other emergency scenarios.

Expert flood mapping methodologies have been developed that leverage Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies. At present these primarily utilise Canada’s RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 satellite sensors. Radar backscatter characteristics are used to delineate the flooded areas in a semi-automated manner. The resulting GIS–ready data products are provided in near-real time (typically 4 – 6 hours after satellite image acquisition) and can be used to overlay on pre- and post-flood images, or combined with other GIS data. The data products are delivered to clients on a Mapserver (web-based) or by FTP (File Transfer Protocol) for ease of transfer and integration. The underlying methodologies and spatial models have been recently modified to ingest other synthetic aperture radar satellites such as ENVISAT, ALOS, and TerraSAR-X.

Requests for mapping expertise most often come from Public Safety Canada and the Department of National Defence, who use these data to assist in situational awareness for decision support, planning, possible liaison with additional partners, and troop deployment purposes (DND).

Emergency Response within Canada 2006-2009

Severe flooding occurred along the Red River in March/April 2009. The flood was the result of a heavy snowpack, spring runoff and precipitation. The geo-spatial data products generated by the Emergency Management Team at CCRS were accessed daily and utilised extensively by Public Safety Canada, Manitoba’s emergency response and flood forecasting agencies, Natural Resources Canada’s Emergency Operations Centre, the Department of National Defence, and other government departments in Canada and the United States.

A time series of over 40 RADARSAT frames in total were processed in near-real time for the emergency response.

Figure 1: The image shows the flood progression using a red color gradient along the Red River from March 31 (darkest red) to April 21 (lightest red). The background image is a mosaic of several Landsat images from 2007 and 2008.

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Certain areas in British Columbia are prone to flooding in the spring from rain and snow melt. In June of 2007 several areas were flooded as a result of the rapid melting of a particularly heavy snowpack. At the request of DND and Public Safety Canada, CCRS provided flood mapping products for Terrace, Prince George, Quesnel, and the Lower Fraser Valley. This information was also used by DND to aid in planning troop deployment.

Figure 2: Open water flood polygons extracted on June 10, 2007 at Port Coquitlam (a) and Terrace British Columbia (b). Imagery is RADARSAT-1, flood polygons are shown in yellow, dykes in green.

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Flooding of the St. John River in New Brunswick began in late April of 2008. As a result there was extensive damage to homes and other infrastructure (such as roads) along the valley from Fredericton to Saint John. Flood mapping products from CCRS were provided to the Canadian military and other organizations to aid in the emergency response.

Figure 3: Open water flood polygons extracted on May 4th and 5th 2008. The imagery on May 4th is RADARSAT-2 and on May 5th is RADARSAT-1.

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