Apples, Bananas, and Oranges: Using GIS to Determine Distance Travelled, Energy Use, and Emissions from Imported Fruit

Papers in Resource Analysis, Volume 11, 2009

Greta Bernatz

“Public interest in food distribution systems as well as an increasing amount of food imports to the United States has resulted in a need for methods of quantifying the transportation of food imports in terms of distance travelled, energy use, and environmental impact. Geographic information systems (GIS) provide a powerful tool to organize and analyze spatial data. This study used a geographic information system to analyze monthly imports of apples, oranges, and bananas in 2008. Shipping routes were mapped, and statistics including average distance travelled, total energy use, and total greenhouse gas emissions were calculated. Bananas were imported in a much larger quantity than apples and bananas, but the average source distance, energy/ton, and emissions/ton measures were lower for bananas than for imported apples and oranges.”

Lining Up Data in ArcGIS: A Guide to Map Projections

Lining Up Data in ArcGIS: A Guide to Map Projections, a new reference guide from ESRI Press, helps resolve the problem of aligning disparate map projections with geographic information system (GIS) technology. Designed for beginning and advanced ArcGIS practitioners, this book offers best practice techniques for identifying and creating accurate map projections and coordinate systems. It covers technical information ranging from procedures used to identify unknown map projections to the creation of custom projections for unique data alignment. While written specifically for users of ArcGIS, this book is a guide for anyone working with map projections, coordinate systems, and data conversion.

“I have found that data misalignment is one of the biggest issues faced by GIS users,” says author Margaret M. Maher, a specialist in projections and data conversion in ESRI’s Support Services department. “While understanding coordinate systems can be a challenge, I believe that this book is filled with practical techniques that will demystify the process.”

Lining Up Data in ArcGIS: A Guide to Map Projections (ISBN: 9781589482494, 200 pages, $24.95) is available at online retailers worldwide, at, or by calling 1-800-447-9778. Outside the United States, visit for complete ordering options, or visit to contact your local ESRI distributor. Interested retailers can contact ESRI Press book distributor Ingram Publisher Services.

[Source: ESRI press release]

Spatial Distribution and Partitioning of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Tokyo Bay, Japan

Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 2010, 12, 838

Jun Kobayashi, Shigeko Serizawa, Takeo Sakurai, Yoshitaka Imaizumi, Noriyuki Suzuki, and Toshihiro Horiguch

“Spatial distributions and partitioning of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Tokyo Bay, Japan, were evaluated by measuring the concentrations of all 209 PCB congeners in surface and bottom waters and bottom sediment at 10 locations. The dissolved + particulate summed congener concentrations (PCB [sum of the concentrations of all 209 PCB congeners]) in surface and bottom waters ranged from 120 to 1100 pg L-1 (median 250 pg L-1) and from 83 to 910 pg L-1 (median 230 pg L-1), respectively. The concentrations did not statistically differ between the two layers, possibly because of vertical mixing of the water column. PCB concentrations in sediment ranged from 2.7 to 110 ng g-1-dry weight. The highest PCB concentrations in both water and sediment were found at stations in the northern bay. Logarithms of field-observed organic carbon-normalized partition coefficients (KOC) increased linearly as the log octanol–water partition coefficients (KOW) increased, up to a log KOW of about 6.5, and then decreased for log KOW > 6.5 (mostly hexa- and hepta-chlorinated biphenyls). Furthermore, log KOC values of congeners having log KOW < 6.5 were higher by about 1 than values predicted by a published empirically derived equation, suggesting that application of KOC values determined in laboratory experiments with soil or sediment samples to fate prediction models may result in overestimation by about one order of magnitude of the concentrations of PCBs with log KOW < 6.5 in the dissolved phase in the water column.”

Development of an Interoperable Tool to Facilitate Spatial Data Integration in the Context of SDI

International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Volume 24, Issue 4 April 2010 , pages 487 – 505

Hossein Mohammadi; Abbas Rajabifard; Ian P. Williamson

“The integration of multisource heterogeneous spatial data is one of the major challenges for many spatial data users. To facilitate multisource spatial data integration, many initiatives including federated databases, feature manipulation engines (FMEs), ontology-driven data integration and spatial mediators have been proposed. The major aim of these initiatives is to harmonize data sets and establish interoperability between different data sources.

“On the contrary, spatial data integration and interoperability is not a pure technical exercise, and there are other nontechnical issues including institutional, policy, legal and social issues involved. Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) framework aims to better address the technical and nontechnical issues and facilitate data integration. The SDIs aim to provide a holistic platform for users to interact with spatial data through technical and nontechnical tools.

“This article aims to discuss the complexity of the challenges associated with data integration and propose a tool that facilitates data harmonization through the assessment of multisource spatial data sets against many measures. The measures represent harmonization criteria and are defined based on the requirement of the respective jurisdiction. Information on technical and nontechnical characteristics of spatial data sets is extracted to form metadata and actual data. Then the tool evaluates the characteristics against measures and identifies the items of inconsistency. The tool also proposes available manipulation tools or guidelines to overcome inconsistencies among data sets. The tool can assist practitioners and organizations to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of validating data sets for effective data integration.”

Scientists Discover Underwater Asphalt Volcanoes

Impressive landmarks hidden for 40,000 years rise from sea-floor

About 10 miles off the Santa Barbara coast, at the bottom of the Santa Barbara Channel, a series of impressive landmarks rise from the sea floor.

They’ve been there for 40,000 years, but have remained hidden in the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean–until now.

They’re called asphalt volcanoes.

High-resolution bathymetry shows extinct asphalt volcanoes on the sea-floor off California. Credit: Dana Yoerger, WHOI

Scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and affiliated with the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), University of California at Davis, University of Sydney and University of Rhode Island, have identified the series of unusual volcanoes.

The largest of these undersea Ice Age domes lies at a depth of 700 feet (220 meters), too deep for scuba diving, which explains why the volcanoes have never before been spotted by humans, says Don Rice, director of NSF’s Chemical Oceanography Program, which funded the research.

“They’re larger than a football-field-long and as tall as a six-story building,” says David Valentine, a geoscientist at UCSB and the lead author of a paper published on-line this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. “They’re massive features, and are made completely out of asphalt.”

Valentine and colleagues first viewed the volcanoes during a 2007 dive on the research submersible Alvin. Valentine credits Ed Keller, an earth scientist at UCSB, with guiding him and colleagues to the site.

“Ed had looked at some bathymetry [sea floor topography] studies conducted in the 1990s and noted some very unusual features,” Valentine says.

Based on Keller’s research, Valentine and other scientists took Alvin into the area in 2007 and discovered the source of the mystery.

Using the sub’s robotic arm, the researchers broke off samples and brought them to labs at UCSB and WHOI for testing.

In 2009, Valentine and colleagues made two more dives to the area in Alvin. They also conducted a detailed survey of the area using an autonomous underwater vehicle, Sentry, which takes photos as it glides about nine feet above the ocean floor.

“When you ‘fly’ Sentry over the sea floor, you can see all of the cracking of the asphalt and flow features,” says Valentine. “All the textures are visible of a once-flowing liquid that has solidified in place.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re calling them volcanoes, because they have so many features that are indicative of a lava flow.”

Tests showed that these aren’t your typical lava volcanoes, however, found in Hawaii and elsewhere around the Pacific Rim.

Using a mass spectrometer, carbon dating, microscopic fossils, and comprehensive, two-dimensional gas chromatography, the scientists determined that the structures are asphalt. They were formed when petroleum flowed from the sea-floor about 30,000-40,000 years ago.

Chris Reddy, a scientist at WHOI and a co-author of the paper, says that “the volcanoes underscore a little-known fact:  half the oil that enters the coastal environment is from natural oil seeps like the ones off the coast of California.”

The researchers also determined that the volcanoes were at one time a prolific source of methane, a greenhouse gas.

The two largest volcanoes are about a kilometer apart and have pits or depressions surrounding them. These pits, according to Valentine, are signs of “methane gas bubbling from the sub-surface.”

That’s not surprising, he says, considering how much petroleum was flowing there in the past.

“They were spewing out a lot of petroleum, but also lots of natural gas,” he says, “which you tend to get when you have petroleum seepage in this area.”

The discovery that vast amounts of methane once emanated from the volcanoes caused the scientists to wonder if there might have been an environmental impact on the area during the Ice Age.

“It became a dead zone,” says Valentine. “We’re hypothesizing that these features may have been a major contributor to those events.”

While the volcanoes have been dormant for thousands of years, the 2009 Alvin dive revealed a few spots where gas was still bubbling.

“We think it’s residual gas,” says Valentine, who added that the amount of gas is so small it’s harmless, and never reaches the surface.

Other co-authors of the paper are Christopher Farwell, Sarah C. Bagby, Brian A. Clark, and Morgan Soloway, all of UCSB; Robert K. Nelson, Dana Yoerger, and Richard Camilli of WHOI; Tessa M. Hill, UC Davis; Oscar Pizarro, University of Sydney; and Christopher N. Roman, University of Rhode Island.

[Source: NSF Press Release]

USGS to Award $4 Million in Earthquake Research Grants

Earthquake research will receive approximately $4 million in grants from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2010, with support going to 47 universities, state geological surveys and private firms.

“These external research grants are an important component of our overall strategy for earthquake risk reduction,” said Marcia McNutt, USGS director. “They help us engage the creativity and imagination of the best researchers nationwide who develop new tools and insights that will ultimately make us safer from seismic hazards.”

USGS supports research on earthquake hazards in at-risk regions nationwide through its Earthquake Hazards Program. This program provides information to the public and private sectors on earthquake occurrence and effects.

Examples of grant recipients include the following:

In the Pacific Northwest, John Vidale of the University of Washington will develop computer simulations of ground shaking during earthquakes in the Seattle area. This study will provide a better understanding of the influence of large sedimentary basins (such as the sediment-filled basin underlying Seattle), on ground shaking and will provide more accurate estimates of ground shaking in the region.

In Alaska, researchers will continue developing a chronology of past earthquakes along the southern coast of Alaska. This will allow Ian Shennan and colleagues from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom to provide better estimates of recurrence times for large earthquakes, both in Alaska and in similar subduction-zone settings such as Chile.

For potential applicability both nationally and internationally, Jonathan Bray and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley will investigate the possible use of smart phones and similar personal devices to rapidly deliver earthquake shaking information. Such information would then be used to more quickly and accurately quantify and locate earthquakes as they occur.

Roland Burgmann of the University of California at Berkeley and Brendan Meade of Harvard University will develop integrated models of northern California faults using GPS, InSAR and seismicity data. The inclusion of recent geodetic data into the revision and update of the this model of the San Francisco Bay Area is critical for estimates of seismic risk in the East Bay and in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

In southern California, Peter Shearer at the University of California at San Diego and Egill Hauksson of the California Institute of Technology will investigate mechanisms and patterns of earthquakes. Shuo Ma of San Diego State University will simulate likely earthquakes for the fault system that borders Los Angeles to the north. Lisa Grant Ludwig at the University of California at Irvine will pursue a better record of prehistoric earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault. Don Helmberger at the California Institute of Technology will investigate earthquake source processes and improve methods for rapidly estimating earthquake source properties.

A complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website.

Applications are now being accepted for 2011. Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under the funding opportunity number 11HQPA0001. Applications are due May 14, 2010.

[Source: USGS press release]