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Severe Flooding in the Balkans

Severe Flooding in the Balkans
Severe Flooding in the Balkans

More than three months worth of rain fell in just a few days in May 2014 in the Balkan Peninsula of Europe, leading to devastating floods and more than 3,000 landslides. The high water wiped out at least 100,000 structures and homes, killed thousands of livestock animals, and exposed or moved many landmines that were set during 1990s warfare. According to news accounts, more than 40 people have died so far and nearly one million have been displaced and/or cut off from clean water supplies.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image of flooding in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 19, 2014. The second image shows the same area one year ago during a more typical spring. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the difference.

The images are both composed with false color, using a combination of infrared and visible light (MODIS bands 7-2-1). Flood water appears black; vegetation is bright green; and bare ground is brown. This band combination makes it easier to spot changes in river dimensions.

The flooding was caused by an extra-tropical cyclone (Tamara) that pulled in moisture from the Mediterranean Sea for nearly three days. Much of the water has swollen the Sava River, which cuts across the middle of the peninsula. The event is considered the region’s worst flood in more than 120 years of record-keeping. More than 40 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina was thought to be in some level of flooding.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using data from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). Caption by Michael Carlowicz.

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