Sacramento - vulnerable to levee breaks

Sacramento's levee system: levees are in orange, the inset is the capital under floodwaters.A good article from NYTimes discussing the vulnerability of Sacramento to levee breaks. Scientists consider Sacramento — which sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers and near the delta — the most flood-prone city in the nation. The city is at risk from earthquake-damaged levees and storm related flooding.

Wallow fire image from Nasa

From the Nasa Earth Observatory: The newly burned land left in the wake of the Wallow Fire is dark red in this false-color image taken on June 15, 2011. The image, acquired by the Landsat 5 satellite, is made with infrared light. The slightly blue blur is smoke, and dots of bright orange-red on the south side of the burn are active fires. Unburned forest is green, and sparsely vegetated land is pink.

By the end of the day on June 15, the Wallow Fire had burned 487,016 acres of forest in eastern Arizona and was 20 percent contained. Most of the fire activity was on the south side of the fire, away from the majority of the communities that had been evacuated. Among the places evacuated were Greer and Eager, labeled in the image. Irrigated plants (like lawns) are pale spots of green and buildings are tiny dots of blue. Most of the 32 homes destroyed in the fire were in Greer, where the fire clearly burned to the edge of the community. While the burned area encroaches on Eager in places, a buffer of green separates the community from the fire.

Before and after the Japanese earthquake, and our nuclear sites in CA

California’s two nuclear power plant locations: Diablo Canyon and San OnofreUpdated satellite photos from Japan, before and after the earthquake, including the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. From the NY Times. Imagery from GeoEye and Digital Globe.  FYI, California’s two nuclear power plants, the dual-unit Diablo Canyon and dual-unit San Onofre systems, produce about one-fifth of the state’s total electricity generation. San Onofre is featured in a number of films, including Naked Gun. Both are apparently designed to withstand earthquakes of 7 or 7.5 magnitude, depending on who you ask. 

Geospatial Revolution Project launched

Penn State Public Broadcasting has released the first episode of the Geospatial Revolution Project,"an integrated public service media and outreach initiative about the world of digital mapping and how it is changing the way we think, behave, and interact." 

These videos are a great resource for sharing the wonder of all things geospatial in an exciting and easy to understand format. Three additional episodes are set to be published throughout the year. 

View the site to watch the videos and learn more, and keep an eye out for Berkeley's own Kass Green who contributed to the project.

Oil Spill Monitoring

A nonprofit called Skytruth has been monitoring the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico using NASA/MODIS satellite imagery and publishing daily reports and analysis as the situation develops. They've also developed an interactive mapping site (Gulf Oil Spill Tracker site) where people can share photos or videos. Here is an example of one of the images they've produced:

The volunteer mappers who helped Haiti

Using an image slideshow, BBC News tells the story of how volunteer mappers used OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping platform, to construct a detailed map of Port au Prince in Haiti with layers of geographic information. The geographic information was accessed and used by the rescue personel on the ground. This short slideshow highlights the importance of PPGIS/webGIS, mobile GIS, open source/platform, crowdsourcing, and public participation in a critical situation like the rescue effort in Haiti.

To view the slideshow, please click here.

Orthorectifying for the Masses

In a bit of Tom Sawyer-inspired app making, the New York Public Library has created an online application for rectifying their collection of digital maps of New York City. "Finding control points is so much fun! It is truly an honor to allow you, our special internet browser, to assist us in collecting them." The NYPL Map Rectifier allows you to export the rectified maps as KMLs. They've also added a separate section for maps of Haiti to assist in earthquake relief. 

Disaster response evolves: faster, more detailed, and community focused

The recent earthquake in Haiti makes us, placed as we are on another of the great faults of the western hemisphere, take pause and think about the fragility of life and the suddenness of disasters like earthquakes.  The mapping of earthquakes - their shake strength, fault lines, and past seismicity - and their damage, has changed in recent years. The Haiti quake shows this: within hours and days of the quake, we were able to see the shake intensity, historical seismicity and detailed faults from the USGS, and Open Street Map opened up a crisis center for participatory mapping. International agencies requested satellite data of the area and, NASA, GeoEye and the European Space Agency responded, and shared their imagery freely.  A number of detailed before and after visualizations from outlets like the NY Times and Bing Maps quickly followed. The disaster and the geospatial response was chronicled in many blogs. 

This is more than what was available to us recently with the San Diego, California fires or the San Francisco Oil Spill in 2007, or Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, each of which set new records for mapping speed and creativity. Each global-scale disaster seems to be a driving innovative force to help shape and evolve participatory mapping, detailed imagery delivery, and spatial decision support tools.  For example, this past weekend I was involved in a World Bank effort called Operation GEO-CAN – Global Earth Observation – Catastrophe Assessment Network (press release here) to analyze aerial imagery from imagery from Port au Prince in 2009 (top) and 2010 (bottom)before and after the Haiti earthquake.  The World Bank needed fast action to get a clearer picture of damage and rebuilding needs. Hundreds of people, from 20 countries, recruited via email, were quick to lend their expertise to digitize and describe collapsed buildings evident in new GeoEye imagery when compared to older imagery (see example at left).  The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), who helped coordinate the effort, used a fast, mobile, distributed thinking system that employed a Google Earth framework and a clever workload management system that allowed users to check out individual tiles of imagery, search for collapsed buildings, digitize them, and then upload the data as lean and mean kmz files. The effort was viral, and continued to grow over the weekend as many of us analyzed tile after tile of imagery, and saw the unimaginable destruction in Haiti. It is astonishing what you are able to see with detailed, multi-temporal, nadir view imagery: collapsed buildings and walls; tents erected in back yards; blocked roads.  The dataset we created will be used to guide emergency response and restoration.

This kind of distributed analysis was inconceivable not long ago. The GeoEye satellite, which captures sub-meter imagery routinely, and Google Earth, which seamlessly coordinates multiple imagery streams, are now mainstream in the 21st century, as are other tools like Open Street Map and Bing. New imagery of disaster foci, new software to fuse and analyze multi-temporal imagery, new database management tools to guide workflow are critical, but it is visionary thinking that is able to quickly capture a concerned and technically capable audience that is paramount. We can learn from our response to the horror of natural disasters like earthquakes to support research in environmental sciences.  These experiences reinforce the message that geospatial tools, as tools alone, are inconsequential. But when we can quickly and accurately map pattern and context, and use that to support decisions, plan for the future, and communicate options, geospatial tools can be the among most powerful available to us.  Along these lines, we at the GIF have been turning our attention internationally, and are focusing on several international projects. For example, we are working with colleagues from the Department of Economics to map land cover change in order to study patterns of human conflict in Sierra Leone, and helping train professional health care students from UCSF who will be stationed in African and India in coming years to look for connections between human health and environment.  We will write about some of these in our upcoming newsletter.

As a last word, there is plenty more to do in Haiti: places to donate include the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Partners in Health, among many, many more.

Free Haiti Imagery through Digital Globe

Digital Globe is offering free access to Haiti imagery pre- and post-earthquake.

They're offering three ways to access the imagery:

  1. KML Overlay for Google Earth that displays the most current imagery for a given location.
  2. ImageConnect plug-in for GIS software that allows GIS professionals to view all the images that have been loaded to the Crisis Event Service.
  3. FTP access to GeoTIFF imagery from QuickBird, WorldView-1 and WorldView-2.

Register at this site for free imagery:

Haiti earthquake information & maps

Note: The Map Room has a good wrap-up of related maps, updated almost daily.

The Haiti earthquake, 7.0 magnitude, struck about 10 miles south-west of Port-au-Prince, was quickly followed by two aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude. The automatically generated Preliminary Earthquake Report from theUSGS shake map U.S. Geological Survey includes many maps, including a shake map (top) and a look at historical seismicity in the area (bottom).  More maps here.

They say: The January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake (7.0 magnitude) occurred in the boundary region separating the Caribbean plate and the North America plate. This plate boundary is dominated by left-lateral strike slip motion and compression, and accommodates about 20 mm/y slip, with the Caribbean plate moving eastward with respect to the North America plate.

Historical seismicityThe location and focal mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with the event having occurred as left-lateral strike slip faulting on the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault system. This fault system accommodates about 7 mm/y, nearly half the overall motion between the Caribbean plate and North America plate. More here.

From the U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center, World Data Center for Seismology, Denver.

And from NASA Earth Observatory, a map showing the topography and tectonic influences in the region of the earthquake.

the topography and tectonic influences in the region of the earthquake

The NYTimes mapping division has a useful before and after tool using satellite (GeoEye) imagery; several key buildings are highlighted.

Looking back to Loma Prieta... and forward

ShakeMap of the 1989 M 6.9 Loma Prieta EarthquakeToday is the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although a bay area native I was not here then, but remember it vividly. I was worried about my parents, my childhood haunts, and Jose Conseco, who was playing at the time for the Oakland A's in the "Bay Bridge World Series" vs the SF Giants. Fans at the game on October 17 1989 talk about the field bulging and moving like a "giant rolling pin under the ground." Jose and my folks were ok, but many people lost their livExpected Levels of Shaking from Future Earthquakeses, the bay bridge was changed forever, and the region sustained billions in damage. There are many great maps of the shaking produced by the 6.9 quake, here is one at left found at the USGS guide to living in earthquake country. The region is still primed for another big shake: look at this graphic of potential shaking forecasted for the future.

Mapping virtual trees and buildings

From a series of news releases (all text, no pics, alas): UK aerial survey specialist Bluesky has launched a brand new digital map layer accurately modelling the location and extent of trees and their proximity to buildings. Designed as a tool to aid insurance assessors, property developers and Local Authority Planners, ProximiTREE details the exact spatial location and height of individual trees together with the circumference of its canopy. From this information a determination can be made of the root extent and the potential impact on either existing or proposed properties.

They plug this product for its use in avoiding building subsidence, but in fire-prone Cali, we could use it to look at defensible space and risk.

They also provide a range of good downloads, including sample data and software for your enjoyment.