Students Conduct Research at the “Icy Edge” of Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes

ucsc…from UC Santa Cruz

“High in the Peruvian Andes, undergraduate Galen Licht was slipping and sliding on the surface of a glacier. Using ground-penetrating radar to measure the depth of the ice as part of a climate-change research expedition, he was having the time of his life.

“It was a perfect job for Licht, who had yearned for an opportunity to work on the front lines of climate change since his first quarter at UCSC.

“Licht spent a year working on related projects in preparation for the trip. He used geographic information systems (GIS) technology to generate a digital elevation model of the region that Bury used in the field. The National Science Foundation provided funds for the trip through its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program.”

Lidar and GIS Technologies Aid in Record-Breaking Tree Discovery

lidar…from International Forest Industries

“A true giant of the tree world has been discovered in Australia using a combination of cutting technologies that are aiding foresters in general, everyday forest management.

“”This discovery was basically a by-product of our sustainable forest management,” Luke Ellis, GIS manager of Forestry Tasmania, said. The company has the statutory responsibility of managing more than 9.1 Mha of state forest land, public land that contains about 39% of Tasmania’s forests. About half the forests managed by Forestry Tasmania are available for sustainable timber production, and a network of formal and informal reserves on the state forests helps the company protect the environmental quality of its forests including flora, fauna, soil, water, and cultural heritage.

“Located in Hobart, the capital of Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania, Forestry Tasmania announced last fall that it had found the only known standing hardwood tree to be more than 100 m tall. The swamp gum tree, nicknamed Centurion (a Roman officer in charge of 100 soldiers), was subsequently climbed and accurately measured at 99.6 m high and 4.05 m in diameter. While tantalisingly short of the 100 m-mark, this makes Centurion the world’s tallest eucalyptus tree and tallest flowering plant. It is topped only by a number of California coast redwood trees, the tallest of which reaches 115 m. Redwoods are softwood trees and grow to be taller than hardwoods, but botanists do not classify them as flowering plants. Centurion was found about 80 km southwest of Hobart in a state forest, conveniently near the Tahune AirWalk tourist attraction boasting picnic areas, swinging bridges, and a visitor’s centre.”

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Creation of Nation’s Largest Carbon Sequestration Project

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement after Sierra Pacific Industries announced the creation of the nation’s largest carbon sequestration project:

“Last week California adopted important accounting rules for capturing carbon through improved forestry practices and this week Sierra Pacific is using those rules to sequester more than one million tons of carbon dioxide. This agreement and the partnerships formed at this summit will help people around the world reduce the 20 percent of global warming emissions that come from deforestation.”

This announcement follows the California Air Resources Board’s adoption of the Forest Project Protocol 3.0 – a set of guidelines establishing accounting rules for determining the climate benefits of forest carbon sequestration projects. The updated protocol removes some of the barriers to participation, such as the requirement for conservation easements and now opens up the voluntary offsets market to private landowners, public lands and out-of-state projects.

These guidelines have allowed Sierra Pacific Industries, California’s largest private landowner and Equator, LLC, a natural resources asset management firm, to enter into a contract creating the nation’s largest carbon sequestration project. This agreement consists of four projects that will be implemented over five years – spanning approximately 60,000 acres of forest across the Sierra.

Under this agreement, Equator, LLC, will purchase carbon dioxide equivalent offsets from Sierra Pacific that will result in the sequestration of 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road for a year.

[Source: State of California press release]

Eastern Indonesia More Prone to Great Quakes

72780_papua_thumb_300_225…from VIVAnews

“An earthquake expert from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) says that Indonesia’s eastern areas have much greater potential of being hit by earthquakes compared to the western area such as Sumatra.

““In Papua and Maluku, the potential of earthquakes and Tsunamis is twice bigger than in Sumatra,” LIPI earthquake expert Dr Danny Hilman Natawidjaya told VIVAnews in Jakarta on Friday, October 2.”

How Earth’s Hum Could Help Us Map Mars

hum…from Wired Science

“The once-mysterious planetary hum of the Earth is getting put to use by scientists mapping the planet’s interior.

“Ocean wave interactions, primarily along the Pacific coast of North America, generate a vibration with a frequency of about 10 millihertz, the background buzz of the globe.

“As the hum moves through the Earth’s crust, it speeds up and slows down in response to the different materials it moves through. Scientists know from many experiments tracking how earthquake waves move through the Earth that colder, denser materials tend to speed waves up and hotter ones tend to slow them down. By looking at those changes, a team led by Kiwamu Nishida of the University of Tokyo generated a map of the interior of the planet, as reported Thursday in the journal Science.”

EnVision: USGS Energy Resources Program Online Mapping Application

“USGS Energy Resources Program (ERP) clients have become accustomed to using NOGA Online, World Energy Online and other single-purpose internet applications to access and discover ERP oil and gas assessment maps, geospatial data, and publications.  These applications, designed and built in-house, rely on a variety of data storage models and are tailored to meet specific Project delivery needs.  The applications function as separate portals to the respective project data assets; they have little commonality; and they require users to learn unique navigation systems to access the maps, data, and publications.


“The individual map applications, although successful for their initial purpose, have become outdated and inefficient, expensive to maintain, and difficult to migrate to new technology.  They also have limited ability to integrate more accessible service-oriented technologies and map service formats adopted in the Energy Science Center.  In addition, World Wide Web (WWW) user preferences have changed and require adoption of high-performance, easy to use (single-click), single-entry map applications that are flexible to work across multiple computing platforms and internet browsers.  Users also want an efficient web portal that can be customized for their use, graphically organize data in a browser, and provide access to a wider variety of map information.  In short, the NOGA Online, World Energy Online, and other project applications require a major overhaul and transition to a more flexible data access and delivery framework in order to continue providing access to ERP products and meet client data delivery requirements.

“To address these issues, the ERP Data Management Project developed a data management strategy to transition our existing map applications to a service-oriented and flexible data access and delivery environment.  This strategy is based on three primary aspects; (1)consolidate data and publications from multiple oil and gas assessments applications into a singular assessment data model; (2)develop a single map viewer portal that is flexible to accommodate the variety of maps, data and services employed in the Energy Program; and (3) consolidate and translate existing ESRI map services into an Open Geospatial Consortium (WMS, WFS) data exchange format.”

Climate Change Poses Grave Threat to U.S. National Parks: New Report Identifies Top Threats and Recommendations to Protect Parks

nrdcClimate change from human activity is the leading threat to wildlife, plants, water and ice in 25 of America’s national parks, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO).

The report, NationalParks in Peril, comes on the heels of the introduction of clean energy and climate legislation in the U.S. Senate, as well as Ken Burns’ national parks series on PBS, which has put parks in the center of America’s national conscience.

“As a country, we need to ensure that our parks have a future that is as promising as their past,” said Theo Spencer, senior advocate for the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Clean energy legislation is now moving in Congress that would help preserve our national treasures, while creating more jobs, economic growth and national security.”

The report outlines climate-related threats in 25 parks spanning 22 states. The top risks include: loss of snow and water, rising seas, more extreme weather, loss of plants and wildlife, and more pollution.

“Climate disruption is the greatest threat ever to our national parks. We could lose entire national parks for the first time, as Everglades, Ellis Island, and other parks could be submerged by rising seas,” said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the report’s principal author. “To preserve our parks, we need to reduce the heat-trapping gases that are threatening them, and begin managing the parks to protect resources at risk.”

Remedies, which are outlined in the report, include enacting comprehensive clean energy legislation, including reducing carbon pollution by at least 20 percent below current levels by 2020; increasing investment in energy efficiency; and accelerating the development of clean energy technologies. The National Parks Service also needs to prioritize this issue by enacting policies to mitigate the impacts of global warming; and should have more funding for research and to reduce the effects of climate change.

Bill Wade, chair of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) and former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, said: “National parks are often referred to as the ‘canaries in the mine shafts’ when it comes to climate change. By their very characteristics and locations, impacts and effects of climate change are noticed in national parks first and are a forewarning about what will happen elsewhere. That’s why this report is particularly important.”

For the full report, including the list of the National Parks, visit the RMCO site.

More information about national parks and global warming is also available at

[Source: NRDC press release]

GIS Is Key to 21st Century Skills

…from the GIS Education Community blog

“Educational researchers and policymakers increasingly call for “21st Century skills.” What exactly are these skills, and why are they important for education? One advocacy organization focused on this is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which since 2002 has brought together business, education, and policy leaders to define these skills and indicate how they can be applied to education. These skills include information and communication, thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal and self-direction, global awareness, economic and business literacy, entrepreneurial, and civic literacy. The Partnership’s belief is that “every child in America needs 21st Century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers, and leaders” and that a gap exists between this knowledge and skill set and what students are currently learning in school.”

Quote of the Day

“The atmosphere on edge presents a striking sight.  You see many distinct layers, all a different shade of iridescent blue.  Through binoculars, I have counted six.  The most amazing aspect of this view is how thin this life-preserving blanket is when compared to the full extent of the planet.  Like an orbital eggshell, our atmosphere looks so frail that it might crack and be gone in an instant, rendering earth as barren and lifeless as any other baked hunk of rock orbiting the sun.”

–Don Pettit, Science Officer, International Space Station, 2002-2003