Letter Report on the Orbiting Carbon Observatory

…from the Committee on Methods for Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions; National Research Council…

A National Research Council committee is conducting a study on how well greenhouse gas emissions can be measured for treaty monitoring and verification. The committee’s analysis suggests that NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), which failed on launch in February 2009, would have provided proof of concept for spaceborne technologies to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, as well as baseline emissions data. This letter focuses on the capabilities of an OCO and currently deployed satellites that measure atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and their potential role in monitoring and verifying a greenhouse gas treaty.

India Launches Geoportal

indiaIndia today launched a geoportal which enables the user to easily access information on basic natural resources in the geospatial domain, particularly the Indian images and thematic information in multiple spatial resolutions. The “ Bhuvan” whose beta version was launched by Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Shri Prithviraj Chavan in New Delhi at a function organized by Astronautical Society of India , showcases Indian images by the superimposition of the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS )satellite imageries on 3D globe. Several leading Scientists including Member Planning Commission, Dr. K Kasturirangan, Dr. G Madhavan Nair who is also the Chairman, ISRO/ Secretary, Department of Space, Secretary, DST, Dr. T. Ramasami, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Dr Shailesh Nayak, former Chairman of ISRO, Prof. UR Rao, DG IMD, Dr. Ajit Tyagi witnessed the moment which opened the door to graphic visualization of digital geospatial India.

Bhuvan which can be accessed at http://bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in, displays satellite images of varying resolution of India’s surface, allowing users to visually see things like cities and important places of interest looking perpendicularly down or at an oblique angle, with different perspectives and can navigate through 3D viewing environment. The degree of resolution showcased is based on the points of interest and popularity, but most of the Indian terrain is covered up to at least 6 meters of resolution with the least spatial resolution being 55 meters from AWifs Sensor.

Thus, Bhuvan represents, in essence, the whole India on your computer. It enables user to fly from space to street level, to grab, spin and zoom down to any place. One can also use Bhuvan to learn more about geography, and use Bhuvan layers to study natural resources, demographics, and transportation in specific contexts. It provides tools for measuring, drawing, saving, printing and most importantly, for visualizing thematic information.

Which Geospatial Technologies Will 3D GIS Impact ?

v1…from Jeff Thurston at Vector One

“Many geospatial technologies will be impacted by three and four dimensional geographic information systems (3D GIS). Some technologies like global positioning systems (GNSS), remote sensing and laser based technologies will enjoy a thrust forward as new forms of data capture, management, analysis and representation are supported through thinking about applications in 3D. Visualisation will be significantly impacted because 3D and 4D analysis will propell new representations into the limelight. We are truly entering a new phase of exploration and discovery in the geospatial sector.”

Visualization of Thermal Pollution from a Nuclear Plant

This video animates a series of thermal infrared LANDSAT images that visualize what a year of thermal pollution from Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station looks like. The pink represents temperatures above ambient levels. The imagery was provided by the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University, and was produced by the Environmental Health Clinic.

Large Trees Declining in Yosemite

Large trees have declined in Yosemite National Park during the 20th century, and warmer climate conditions may play a role.

The number of large-diameter trees in the park declined 24 percent between the 1930s and 1990s. U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington scientists compared the earliest records of large-diameter trees densities from 1932–1936 to the most recent records from 1988–1999.

A decline in large trees means habitat loss and possible reduction in species such as spotted owls, mosses, orchids and fishers (a carnivore related to weasels). Fewer new trees will grow in the landscape because large trees are a seed source for the surrounding landscape. Large-diameter trees generally resist fire more than small-diameter trees, so fewer large trees could also slow forest regeneration after fires.

“Although this study did not investigate the causes of decline, climate change is a likely contributor to these events and should be taken into consideration,” said USGS scientist emeritus Jan van Wagtendonk. “Warmer conditions increase the length of the summer dry season and decrease the snowpack that provides much of the water for the growing season. A longer summer dry season can also reduce tree growth and vigor, and can reduce trees’ ability to resist insects and pathogens.”

Scientists also found a shift to fire-intolerant trees in some forests that had not experienced fires for nearly a century. In these areas, trees changed from fire-tolerant ponderosa pines to fire-intolerant white fir and incense cedar. In burned areas, however, pines remained dominant.

“We should be aware that more frequent and severe wildfires are possible in Yosemite because of the recent shift to fire-intolerant trees in unburned areas and warmer climates bring drier conditions,” said van Wagtendonk.

This research was published in Forest Ecology and Management and can be found online (PDF).

Three New Papers about NeoGeography

coverThe latest issue (Volume 2, Issue 3 2009) of the Journal of Location Based Services features three papers about NeoGeography (asbtracts below), as well as an editorial on the same subject (no abstract available).

“NeoGeography and the nature of geographic expertise” by Michael Goodchild

NeoGeography has been defined as a blurring of the distinctions between producer, communicator and consumer of geographic information. The relationship between professional and amateur varies across disciplines. The subject matter of geography is familiar to everyone, and the acquisition and compilation of geographic data have become vastly easier as technology has advanced. The authority of traditional mapping agencies can be attributed to their specifications, production mechanisms and programs for quality control. Very different mechanisms work to ensure the quality of data volunteered by amateurs. Academic geographers are concerned with the extraction of knowledge from geographic data using a combination of analytic tools and accumulated theory. The definition of NeoGeography implies a misunderstanding of this role of the professional, but English lacks a basis for a better term.

“The Second Life of urban planning? Using NeoGeography tools for community engagement” by Marcus Foth, Bhishna Bajracharya, Ross Brown, and Greg Hearn

The majority of the world’s citizens now live in cities. Although urban planning can thus be thought of as a field with significant ramifications on the human condition, many practitioners feel that it has reached the crossroads in thought leadership between traditional practice and a new, more participatory and open approach. Conventional ways to engage people in participatory planning exercises are limited in reach and scope. At the same time, socio-cultural trends and technology innovation offer opportunities to re-think the status quo in urban planning. NeoGeography introduces tools and services that allow non-geographers to use advanced geographical information systems. Similarly, is there a potential for the emergence of aneo-planning paradigm in which urban planning is carried out through active civic engagement aided by Web 2.0 and new media technologies thus redefining the role of practicing planners? This paper traces a number of evolving links between urban planning, NeoGeography and information and communication technology. Two significant trends – participation and visualisation – with direct implications for urban planning are discussed. Combining advanced participation and visualisation features, the popular virtual reality environment Second Life is then introduced as a test bed to explore a planning workshop and an integrated software event framework to assist narrative generation. We discuss an approach to harness and analyse narratives using virtual reality logging to make transparent how users understand and interpret proposed urban designs.

“NeoGeography and Web 2.0: concepts, tools and applications” by Andrew Hudson-Smith, Andrew Crooks, Maurizio Gibin, Richard Milton, and Michael Batty

In this article, we explore the concepts and applications of Web 2.0 through the new media of NeoGeography and its impact on how we collect, interact and search for spatial information. We argue that location and space are becoming increasingly important in the information technology revolution. To this end, we present a series of software tools which we have designed to facilitate the non-expert user to develop online visualisations which are essentially map-based. These are based on Google Map Creator, which can produce any number of thematic maps which can be overlaid on Google Maps. We then introduce MapTube, a technology to generate an archive of shared maps, before introducing Google Earth Creator, Image Cutter and PhotoOverlay Creator. All these tools allow users to display and share information over the web. Finally, we present how Second Life has the potential to combine all aspects of Web 2.0, visualisation and NeoGeography in a single multi-user three-dimensional collaborative environment.

The editorial is titled “NeoGeography: an extension of mainstream geography for everyone made by everyone?”, written by Sanjay Rana and Thierry Joliveau.

  • More information
  • Collaborative Mapping Drives a New Age of Exploration

    From the 15th Century through the 18th Century, The Age of Exploration was a period of unprecedented discovery.  Driven by economics, politics, religion, fame, or other less tangible factors, intrepid explorers went off to far corners of the earth, often without maps to guide them.  They came back with tall tales of new places, new species, new tribes—and new maps.

    The Age of Exploration gave way to the Industrial Revolution, which itself gave way to the Information Age as more jobs moved from production to service.  Geographic information system (GIS) technologies—computer-based applications for viewing and managing information about geographic places, analyzing spatial relationships, and modeling spatial processes—were born during this period, and by the end of the 20th century had become ubiquitous across government and industry as indispensable decision support tools.  In the 21st century, the Age of Information is giving way to the Age of Collaboration as the Internet provides a platform to connect people and information to solve ever-more complex problems.  Exploration is being redefined, and a new emphasis has been placed on the value of the geographic information being created and shared by GIS professionals.

    The old adage “information is power” is historically thought of as “he who has the information, has the power.”   In the Collaboration Age, information is democratized, transferring the power from the few who “own” the information to larger groups or the population at large.  This is certainly true in the realm of geospatial technology, where we are seeing a revolution in the ways that maps and mapped information are created, used, and shared.

    The New Explorers

    Exploration used to mean mapping the unknown.  The type of information that used to be cloaked in mystery and only accessible by a few people through much difficulty is now easily accessible by literally billions of people.  Thanks to this new era of data availability and easy-to-use technology, today’s explorers take information from multiple sources to look at well-known areas in entirely new ways.  Widespread access to maps and well-informed awareness of the world around us means this new generation of explorers is immense, smart, creative, and innovative—precisely the prescription we need for a planet in peril.

    This new age of exploration has three primary features:

    • A vast virtual library of geospatial information is readily available over the Web.
    • A new generation of exploration and visualization tools lets people leverage this virtual library quickly and easily.
    • The large community of geospatial professionals has the skills to develop custom mapping applications (or “mash-ups”) and perform sophisticated spatial analysis when the solution to a problem demands more than simple exploration or visualization.

    Working together or working with data or mash-ups that others have already built and shared, now anyone can use geographic information to explore the world around them.