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Help to Validate Global Land Cover with GeoWiki and Cropland Capture

Courtesy of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

This creative project from GeoWiki seeks to get croudsourced feedback on crop types from participants around the world. They say: 

By 2050 we will need to feed more than 2 billion additional people on the Earth. By playing Cropland Capture, you will help us to improve basic information about where cropland is located on the Earth's surface. Using this information, we will be better equipped at tackling problems of future food security and the effects of climate change on future food supply. Get involved and contribute to a good cause! Help us to identify cropland area!

Oh yeah, and there are prizes!

Each week (starting Nov. 15th) the top three players with the highest score at the end of each week will be added to our weekly winners list. After 25 weeks, three people will be drawn randomly from this list to become our overall winners. Prizes will include an Amazon Kindle, a brand new smartphone and a tablet.


Those crowded skies: Flight maps and delays

real time map of flights from planefinder.netYou've probably seen the frequently-cited "Misery Map" (D3 behind the scenes) showing how the Thanksgiving storm has blown many a tight travel plan off schedule.

Here is another cool one: real-time map of all the flights in the air. It looks crowded!

How it works.

Happy and safe travels everyone. has created the Misery Map, a real-time weather and flight data visualization tool that overlays Nexrad radar imagery on a map of the country, with red-green graphs showing the pain at major airports.
Read more at has created the Misery Map, a real-time weather and flight data visualization tool that overlays Nexrad radar imagery on a map of the country, with red-green graphs showing the pain at major airports.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! version 2013

Range map of our friend Meleagris gallopovaThe ancestor all present-day gobblers—Meleagris gallopova - ranged from southeastern Canada to Mexico. 

Our present-day wild turkey has a loud call, with descending gobbles, and a variety of clucking notes. He struts through open woodlands, oaks, edges, and the occasional suburb.

The Wild Turkey’s popularity at the table led to a drastic decline in numbers, but they have recovered and now occur in every state except Alaska.

I think Ben Franklin said it best, in comparing the turkey to the eagle:

For in Truth the Turk'y is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.... He is, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that,) a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards, who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Information from A Short History of the Turkey by the Collonial Williamsburg Newsletter, and


GIS Day 2013 Report: Mulford Hall comes alive in a dark and stormy evening

Discovering the World Through GIS

November 20, 2013 -

UC Berkeley, Mulford Hall

GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society.

Berkeley's GIS Day 2013 was held at UC Berkeley's Mulford Hall for the eighth year in a row. This year's event was co-hosted by the Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) and GIS Education Center (GISEC) with support from the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association (BAAMA) and American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing NorCal (ASPRS). We had great talks from a number of speakers, including our very own Shufei Lei!

  • Laci Videmsky New California Water Atlas: Building a Digital Public Work: A New California Water Atlas
  • Larry Orman GreenInfo Network Data, Tools and Communication for Public Interest Geospatial
  • Jeanne Jones U.S. Geological Survey Pedestrian Evacuation Analysis for Tsunami Hazards
  • Dennis Klein Boundary Solutions, Inc. Parcel-Level GIS protocol adopted by Mill Valley to guide Sustainable Community Development by posing 3 questions: What’s your Walk, Transit, and Solar
  • Shufei Lei Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley Measuring learning in adaptive co-management by mapping dialogues using Self-Organizing Map: Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project
  • Michelle Koo & Falk Schuetzenmeister Museum of Vertebrate Zoology & Geospatial Innovation Facility, UC Berkeley Place, Space and Time: Rescuing and integrating biological and environmental data in the face of global change
  • Bruce Joffe & Reg Parks GIS Consultants & Santa Rosa Junior College Supporting an Accessible Geodetic Control Network for California

We had over 120 people in Mulford Hall: presenting, listening, learning and networking. Thanks All!

For more information, please see the GIF website. 


The evolution of a Digital Earth 

In 1998 Al Gore made his now famous speech entitled The Digital Earth: Understanding our planet in the 21st Century. He described the possibilities and need for the development of a new concept in earth science, communication and society. He envisioned technology that would allow us "to capture, store, process and display an unprecedented amount of information about our planet and a wide variety of environmental and cultural phenomena.” From the vantage point of our hyper-geo-emersed lifestyle today his description of this Digital Earth is prescient yet rather cumbersome: 

"Imagine, for example, a young child going to a Digital Earth exhibit at a local museum. After donning a head-mounted display, she sees Earth as it appears from space. Using a data glove, she zooms in, using higher and higher levels of resolution, to see continents, then regions, countries, cities, and finally individual houses, trees, and other natural and man-made objects. Having found an area of the planet she is interested in exploring, she takes the equivalent of a "magic carpet ride" through a 3-D visualization of the terrain.”

He said: "Although this scenario may seem like science fiction, most of the technologies and capabilities that would be required to build a Digital Earth are either here or under development. Of course, the capabilities of a Digital Earth will continue to evolve over time. What we will be able to do in 2005 will look primitive compared to the Digital Earth of the year 2020. In 1998, the necessary technologies were: Computational Science, Mass Storage, Satellite Imagery, Broadband networks, Interoperability, and Metadata. 

He anticipated change: "Of course, further technological progress is needed to realize the full potential of the Digital Earth, especially in areas such as automatic interpretation of imagery, the fusion of data from multiple sources, and intelligent agents that could find and link information on the Web about a particular spot on the planet. But enough of the pieces are in place right now to warrant proceeding with this exciting initiative.” 

Example from NOAA's Science on a Sphere projectMuch has changed since he gave his talk, obviously. We have numerous examples of Virtual Globes for data exploration - for example, Google Earth, NASA’s WorldWind, ESRI’s ArcGIS Explorer, Bing Maps 3D, TerraExplorer, Marble.  (These virtual examples are made tangible with NOAA's terrific Science on a Sphere project.)

We also have realized a new vision of the Digital Earth that includes much more than immersive viewing of data. Today’s Digital Earth vision(s) include analytics and expertise for solving problems that are often cross-discplinary and large scale. Additionally, we make much more use today than was anticipated in 1998 from sensor networks and the geoweb (e.g. volunteered geographic information and croudsourcing). Examples of this multi-disciplinary Digital Earth concept include Google Earth Engine (and its recent forest loss product), Nasa Earth Exchange, and our own HOLOS.

NSF has adopted this concept for their Earth Cube concept. Last year NSF was looking for transformative concepts and approaches to create integrated data management infrastructures across the Geosciences. They were interested in the multifaceted challenges of modern, data-intensive science and education and envision an environment where low adoption thresholds and new capabilities act together to greatly increase the productivity and capability of researchers and educators working at the frontiers of Earth system science. I am not sure if this will be funded in 2014, but the concept reafirms that the concept of the Digital Earth is widespread and will likely be an important part of academia.


Global forest change from Landsat and Google

The video describing the partnership and the product is available now.

A new high-resolution global map of forest loss and gain has been created with the help of Google Earth. The interactive online tool is publicly available and zooms in to a remarkably high level of local detail - a resolution of 30m. Snapshot of Russia here (green = forest, blue = gain, red = loss):

Russia has much forest activity

Results from time-series analysis of 654,178 Landsat images from 2000–2012 characterize forest extent and change. Between 2000 and 2012, according to this analysis, the Earth lost a combined "forest" the size of Mongolia.

Here is the abstract from the accompanying paper in Science:

Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.

Hansen, M.C.; Potapov, P.V.; Moore, R.; Hancher, M.; Turubanova, S.A.; Tyukavina, A.; Thau, D.; Stehman, S.V.; Goetz, S.J.; Loveland, T.R.; Kommareddy, A.; Egorov, A.; Chini, L.; Justice, C.O.; Townshend, J.R.G. High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science 2013, 342, 850-853


NASA shares satellite and climate data on Amazon’s cloud


NASA has announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services that the agency hopes will spark wider collaboration on climate research. In an effort that is in some ways parallel to Google's Earth Engine, NASA has uploaded terabytes of data to Amazon's public cloud and made it available to the anyone. 

Three data sets are already up at Amazon. The first is climate change forecast data for the continental United States from NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) climate simulations, scaled down to make them usable outside of a supercomputing environment. The other two are satellite data sets—one from from the US Geological Survey's Landsat, and the other a collection of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from NASA's Terra and Aqua Earth remote sensing satellites.

More Here


Differences between Google Maps and Open Street Map

For class discussion: here is one look at the difference between Google Maps and Open Street Map.



Just how much do we need the rain? 

Reservoir Drought Monitor Categories - Sep 30, 2013

From DWR's California Data Exchange Center - Reservoirs.

Callfornia is a pretty dry state as we roll into the winter season, but the bad news is spread over the state in different ways.  As of September 30, 17 of the 18 main reservoirs in the state are below 50% of normal storage percentiles. That is not quite as bad as it sounds, 5 of these reservoirs - Friant, Tahoe, New Bullards Bar, Almador and our very own Camanche/Pardee (which catches the lovely water of the Mokolumne River and satiates us EBMUDders) - are classified as "Normal" status. Three reservoirs - Cachima, Casitas and Isabella - are classified as "Drought Severe" status. Those three are in the southern portion of the state.

For more on our water supplies, check out

In case you want to know more about the water we drink in Berkeley, the Mokelumne River is a 95-mile-long river flowing west from the central Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley and ultimately the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, where it empties into the San Joaquin River. Together with its main tributary, the Cosumnes River, the Mokelumne drains 2,143 square miles (5,550 km2) in parts of five California counties.

The Upper Mokelumne River stretches from the headwaters to Pardee Reservoir in the Sierra foothills, and the Lower Mokelumne River is the portion of the river below Camanche Dam. Camanche and Pardee dams provide water for the east San Francisco Bay Area through the Mokelumne Aqueduct.

The name is Plains Miwok and is constructed from moke, meaning fishnet, and -umne, a suffix meaning "people of". Thanks Wikipedia!


New Berkeley Institute for Data Science Launched!

UC Berkeley is establishing a new institute to enable university researchers to harness the full potential of the data-rich world that today characterizes all fields of science and discovery. The Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) will be part of a multi-million dollar effort supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The new 5-year, $37.8 million initiative was announced today at a meeting sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) focused on developing innovative partnerships to advance technologies that support advanced data management and data analytic techniques.

The ambitious Moore/Sloan partnership, which also includes New York University and the University of Washington, will spur collaborations within and across the three campuses and other partners pursuing similar data-intensive science goals. The three PIs who lead the respective campus efforts – Saul Perlmutter at UC Berkeley, Ed Lazowska at the University of Washington, and Yann Le Cunn at NYU – will promote common approaches to form the basis for ongoing collaboration between the three campuses.

To provide a home for the new Berkeley Institute for Data Science UC Berkeley has set aside renovated space in a historical library building on the central campus in 190 Doe Library. The Institute is expected to move into its new quarters in spring 2014. In order to help address challenges related to creating and sustaining attractive career paths the new Institute will offer new Data Science Fellow positions for faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and staff to be shared with departmental partners across the campus. The new Institute will also offer support for graduate students, and organize short courses, boot camps, hack-a-thons and many other activities.

More information about specific BIDS programs will be forthcoming in the coming weeks. The new Institute will be launched at a campus event on December 12, 2013. If you or your students and collaborators are interested in participating in the Data Science Faire that day, please be sure to register at The deadline is November 25, 2013.

For updates and more information, please visit and contact data with any questions you may have.

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