Monsoons are forcing millions of Chinese citizens to flee
Avatar photo Nash Prado

Monsoons are forcing millions of Chinese citizens to flee

Infrastructure | Monitoring

Once-in-a-millennium monsoon rains, partially driven by climate change, have ravaged China and tested its aging water infrastructure. More than 2 million people in China have been relocated due to flooding, with many more at risk of losing their homes.

What is causing the floods along the Yangtze River?

Since June, dams have been forced to release floodwater, causing devastation downstream as they struggle to hold back rising floodwater. In particular, the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, has needed to discharge floodwaters after excess rains pushed water levels in China’s rivers basin and other tributaries to critical levels.

This discharge has caused major flooding downstream and displaced millions.

Three Gorges Dam Flooding - BeforeFlooding of three gorges dam - August 2, 2020

Satellite images show the release of water from Three Gorge Dams to release excess floodwater.

Ghezouba Dam from spaceGhezouba Dam releasing water in July 2020


As the Three Gorge Dam releases waters on the Yangtze River, a smaller Gezhouba Dam which is around 26 kilometers southeast and downstream of the Three Gorge Dam also opens its gates to release floodwaters.

With the release of floodwater from major dams along the Yangtze river, multiple areas were flooded and displaced millions of residents along the Yangtze river basin. This flooding was captured by cloud penetrating, all-weather Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite imagery and processed using advanced flood detection techniques.


Sentinel 1A Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) processed satellite imagery shows various flooded areas across the river banks and tributaries of the Yangtze River in Hubei, China due to continuous monsoon rains.

As seen from the Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery, there are multiple areas of flooding detected on river basins, river tributaries, freshwater lakes, agricultural fields, and water reservoirs. With the use of optical satellite imagery, we can confirm these floods and see in detail the affected areas.

Proimagery captured optical satellite imagery along the Yangtze river basin which shows areas that have been affected by flooding due to intense heavy rainfall.


Yangtze River BasinYangtze River Basin Flooded - July 31, 2020

The imagery above shows the impact of flooding along the Yangtze river banks of Dianjun district as compared to normal river flow.

Yangtze River Basin - June 1, 2020Flooding on the Yangtze River Basin - August 2, 2020

The imagery above shows flooding along the Yangtze river banks of Yidu as compared to normal river flow.

River in Zhijiang - June 2020Flooding of Yangtze River Basin at Zhijiang - August 2020

The imagery above shows flooding along the Yangtze river banks of Zhijiang.

Yangtze River at Gong’an CountyFlooding of Yangtze River near Gong’an County

The imagery above shows flooding along the Yangtze river banks of Gong’an County.


Once-in-a-millennium monsoon rains are testing the Chinese water infrastructure beyond its designed capacity. Dams have been opened in order to release excess water and relieve the infrastructure, which has caused flooding along the Yangtze River. Proimagery has been following this story as it unfolds.

Update: See this content featured in Taiwan News’s article: Satellite images show Chinese cities flooded by Yangtze River