Internationally coordinated multi-mission planning is now critical to sustain the space-based rainfall observations needed for managing floods globally
At present 4 of 10 dedicated rainfall observing satellite systems have exceeded their design life, some by more than a decade. Here, we show operational implications for flood management of a 'collapse' of space-based rainfall observing infrastructure as well as the high-value opportunities for a globally coordinated portfolio of satellite missions and data services. Results show that the current portfolio of rainfall missions fails to meet operational data needs for flood management, even when assuming a perfectly coordinated data product from all current rainfall-focused missions (i.e., the full portfolio). In the full portfolio, satellite-based rainfall data deficits vary across the globe and may preclude climate adaptation in locations vulnerable to increasing flood risks. Moreover, removing satellites that are currently beyond their design life (i.e., the reduced portfolio) dramatically increases data deficits globally and could cause entire high intensity flood events to be unobserved. Recovery from the reduced portfolio is possible with internationally coordinated replenishment of as few as 2 of the 4 satellite systems beyond their design life, yielding rainfall data coverages that outperform the current full portfolio (i.e., an optimized portfolio of eight satellites can outperform ten satellites). This work demonstrates the potential for internationally coordinated satellite replenishment and data services to substantially enhance the cost-effectiveness, sustainability and operational value of space-based rainfall observations in managing evolving flood risks.