NOAA and Esri Agreement to Broaden Understanding of Environmental Change

noaa_whiteNOAA’s New GIS Platform Will Increase Availability of Ocean and Weather Data and Applications

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently signed an enterprise license agreement with Esri, the world leader in GIS technology.

The agreement enables NOAA to continue building its GIS platform while maintaining data quality in bathymetry, climate and weather data, navigational charting, fisheries protection, natural resource management, marine planning, and other areas of its mission.

“NOAA now has the ability to increase access to Esri software and services that provide additional options for making NOAA data and applications available to all our constituencies and partners,” says Tony LaVoi, NOAA geospatial information officer. “We’re looking forward to the opportunities this presents to continue to grow our geospatial programs in NOAA.”

All NOAA employees now gain unlimited access to select Esri desktop and server products, including the powerful ArcGIS for Desktop, ArcGIS Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst extensions, and ArcGIS for Maritime. In addition, NOAA staff members gain unlimited access to Esri’s Virtual Campus for online training, discounts on Esri technical support and classroom training, and complimentary passes to annual Esri user and developer conferences.

Another benefit of the agreement is a subscription to Esri’s ArcGIS Online. This benefit allows NOAA to quickly create interactive maps and applications and share these with the rest of the organization and the public.

“The agreement provides a foundation for the development of an enterprise geospatial program for NOAA, which will likely result in increased efficiencies across the organization, enhanced access to NOAA data and services, and a streamlined acquisition process,” states Joe Klimavicz, NOAA’s chief information officer (CIO).

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

For more information about enterprise license agreements, visit

[Source: Esri press release]

Atmosphere, Climate, and Weather Papers at the 2010 ESRI International User Conference

Real-World Applications of GIS in Meteorology

  • The Colorado Statewide Snow Avalanche Path GIS Database and Project
  • Effect of Surface Characteristics on Tornado Vortex Signatures

Software and Hardware Tools for Climatology and Meteorology

  • An Open Geospatial Consortium Standards-based Arctic Climatology Sensor Network Prototype
  • Using Mobile Devices for Enhanced Storm Damage Surveys
  • Mapping and Animating Air Masses with Python and ArcObjects

From the Wet Side: Marine Climatology and Climate Impacts

  • Integration of Hurricane Model with Socio-Economic Data
  • HabitatSpace – to visualize/analyze climate change effects in 3-D
  • Analysis and Visualisation of Atmospheric and Marine Meteorology Information

Panel Discussion: Atmosphere 2.0

  • This discussion will focus on how atmospheric and environmental sciences are now using mapping to engage the public, mostly by citizen generated content.

Clark Labs Releases New Global Monthly Data Archive for Image Time Series Analysis

Clark Labs is pleased to announce they have released a DVD archive of monthly global NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index) MODIS data. The MODIS data were processed by NASA Goddard from the Terra sensor projected on a 0.05 degree climate modeling grid. The DVD includes over 3 gigabytes of data from the MOD13C2 product, for the years 2000 – 2009, formatted and preprocessed for immediate input into the IDRISI GIS and Image Processing software. None of the original values were altered. The DVD is available for only $30 plus shipping and handling.

Historical data is crucial for the analysis of earth trends and dynamics, particularly for change detection and prediction and long-term image series analysis. Time series analysis is critical for exploring such global events as El Nino and related sea surface temperature anomalies and impacts. Although such data is a valuable resource for analysts, publicly available and typically free, a significant amount of effort must be invested before the data is ready for analysis. Files for each time period, typically at sizes of over 100 mb, must be downloaded individually. The data then needs to be imported and pre-processed. This archive allows analysts and researchers to bypass the tedious yet necessary data download and preparation process, freeing up more effort for a project’s analytical goals.

This data archive is a particularly significant resource as input for the Earth Trends Modeler application within the IDRISI software. Earth Trends Modeler, an application for the exploration and analysis of image time series data, includes a coordinated suite of data mining tools and a variety of techniques for the extraction of global trends and the impacts of climate change. The new data archive can immediately be used within Earth Trends Modeler.

The DVD also includes monthly atmospheric temperature data from Remote Sensing System (RSS), processed from the Microwave and Advanced Microwave Sounding Units on NOAA polar-orbiting platforms and in a 2.5 degree grid.

Learn more about the Global Monthly Data Archive Series.

[Source: Clark University press release]

A New Approach To Earth Science Data Analysis: NASA Earth Exchange

The way we analyze planet Earth will never be the same, thanks to a new initiative at NASA that integrates supercomputers with global satellite observations and sophisticated models of the Earth system in an online collaborative environment. As part of its celebration of Earth Week, NASA unveiled the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) at a “Green Earth” public forum held at the NASA Exploration Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

By making NEX available, NASA expects to better enable scientists to collaboratively conduct research and address the impacts of changes in climate and land use patterns on ecosystems. NEX will link NASA’s supercomputing resources with massive Earth system data sets, and provide a collection of tools for analysis and visualization.

“Currently, it can require months for scientists to gather and analyze global-scale data sets, due to computing limitations, data storage requirements and network bandwidth constraints”, said Ramakrishna Nemani, senior research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “By bringing NASA supercomputer resources to bear on the problem, we can reduce that time to hours, accelerating research on topics ranging from global rates of forest change to the effects of climate change on the reliability of our water resources.”

For example, scientists at NASA have created global high resolution “snapshots” of the Earth’s vegetation from Landsat data over the past 30 years. These snapshots contain quantitative information that is detailed enough to characterize human-scale processes such as urban growth, agricultural irrigation, and deforestation. By comparing vegetation cover and biomass estimates from different time periods, scientists can improve our understanding of where and how the Earth is changing. Using NEX, scientists are now able to create snapshots of global vegetation patterns containing over half a trillion pixels in less than ten hours.

NEX uses a new approach for collaboration among scientists and science teams working to model the Earth system and analyze large Earth observation datasets. Using on-line collaboration technologies, NEX will bring together geographically dispersed multi-disciplinary groups of scientists focused on global change research. Scientists will be able to build custom project environments containing the datasets and software components needed to solve complex Earth science problems. These project environments, built using virtualization technology, will be highly portable and reusable and will automatically capture the entire analysis process, including the data and processing steps required to replicate the results in an open and transparent way. For example, results from the processing of the global Landsat data would be available to scientists with the additional expertise required to analyze rates of urbanization, deforestation, or biodiversity impacts. The science teams would have access to not only the data, but also each processing step used to create the global mosaics.

The NEX uses NASA’s largest, most powerful supercomputer, Pleiades, a 56,832-processor Silicon Graphics International Altix ICE system, Pleiades’ storage system, with an approximately 1.4 petabyte capacity, and the hyperwall-2 visualization system, featuring 128 screens, which measure 23-feet by 10-feet is located at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

“Pleiades now provides an enormous capability for scientists to make new discoveries and gain insight into Earth’s system,” said William Thigpen, high-end computing capability deputy project manager at the NAS.

“Fitting these Landsat tiles together was like working a giant, complicated jigsaw puzzle¬ – it was not a trivial matter,” said Tim Sandstrom, science visualizations expert at the NAS facility. “It required custom algorithms, an extensive amount of memory and a large number of processors, afforded by NASA’s supercomputers.”

NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, Washington, D.C., sponsored the NASA Earth Climate Exchange to complement the agency’s efforts to capture global Earth observations from space.

The NAS facility’s supercomputing environment operates under the agency’s High End Computing Capability (HECC) Project, which plans for and provides high-end computing systems and services to support NASA’s mission needs in aeronautics, exploration, science and space operations.

For more information about the NASA Earth Exchange, visit:

For information about the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility, visit:

[Source: NASA press release]

USGS Awards $2.7 Million in Stimulus Funding to Improve the Detection of Changes in the Earth’s Crust

The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $2.7 million in cooperative agreements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the University of California, Berkeley; Central Washington University; University of California, San Diego; and UNAVCO, Inc., to improve networks that detect minute changes in the earth’s crust caused by faulting in earthquake-prone regions.

Monitoring these small changes (undetectable except through the methods of advanced geodesy) is an integral part of assessing the likely rate of large earthquakes. For optimal performance in real time, many existing monitoring stations need modern sensors and improved communication systems. Funds provided through six cooperative agreements will improve monitoring capabilities by replacing obsolete sensors that may be more than 10 years old and by upgrading communications so that real-time data streams are more reliable or possible for the first time. These funds will create or preserve jobs relating to contract work and equipment manufacturing.

“These improvements in advanced geodesy will enhance the ability of the U.S. Geological Survey and its cooperators to monitor in real-time how strain is building across hazardous faults,” said David Applegate, senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year included $3 billion to the Department of the Interior. Of that amount, $140 million in funding is being used by the USGS to fund projects meeting Recovery Act goals

The Recovery Act funds are part of a stimulus package that is an important component of the President’s plan to jumpstart the economy and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century. Under the Recovery Act, Interior is making an investment in conserving America’s timeless treasures — our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage — while helping American families and their communities prosper again. Interior is also focusing on renewable energy projects, the needs of American Indians, employing youth and promoting community service.

“With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department’s economic recovery projects. The public can follow the progress of each project on RECOVERY.GOV and on the Department of the Interior, Recovery Investments website. Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force to work closely with Interior’s Inspector General and ensure that the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility and transparency set by President Obama.

[Source: USGS press release]

Zeroing In on Natural Resources

GIS for Customizing Earth Sciences Applications

…from the Winter 2009/2010 issue of ArcNews

Hydrocarbon exploration is an expensive, high-risk operation that involves searching for hydrocarbon deposits (like oil and gas) beneath the earth’s surface. Though visible surface features can provide evidence of hydrocarbon generation, most exploration methods depend on highly sophisticated technology to detect and determine the presence of these deposits deep within the earth.

In early 2000, there was a significant natural gas discovery in southern New York that led to a boom in hydrocarbon exploration. Shortly after this discovery, MIR Télédétection Inc.—a natural resources consulting firm located in Québec, Canada,—began providing expertise to help target hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Among the many services MIR provides are customized earth sciences applications that support hydrocarbon exploration in North America through the capture, integration, and analysis of geologic, remotely sensed, and geoscientific data. Its research plays an integral role in successfully turning leads (structures that may contain or trap hydrocarbons) into prospects (leads that have been fully evaluated and are ready to drill).

Research Challenges to Understanding, Predicting, and Restoring Landscape Changes Identified

Nine research challenges and four research initiatives that are poised to advance the study of how Earth’s landscapes change were unveiled today in a new report by the National Research Council.  These challenges and initiatives could open the path to resolving environmental issues, from coastal erosion to landslides, by helping predict how processes such as wind, ice, water, tectonics, and living organisms drive changes in the Earth’s surface.

The development of new analytic and computing technologies and the heightened demand for scientific guidance in decision making concerning future landscape transformation and restoration have propelled research in Earth surface processes over the past two decades.  However, significant questions remain unanswered, which are addressed in these challenges and initiatives.

What does our planet’s past tell us about its future? The surface of the Earth records its own evolution, which scientists can examine through evidence in ice cores, sediments, and landforms.  Accelerating the ability for researchers to tap into that record could help determine how the surface environment alters through time and how it may change in the future.

How do geopatterns on Earth’s surface arise and what do they tell us about processes? From repeated patterns on sand dunes to similar shapes of barrier islands, myriad land patterns at all scales can be seen on the planet’s surface.  Scientists have found that these geopatterns often emerge spontaneously, evolve over time, and are resilient, as unstable patterns do not last for long periods.  Geopatterns provide a template for understanding many Earth surface processes, which could help scientists predict how the surface will respond to natural and human-induced changes.

How do landscapes influence and record climate and the movement of large pieces of the Earth’s crust? One of the advances in the earth sciences is the recognition of interactions between climate and the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates.  For example, in mountain ranges developed from converging tectonic plates, prevailing winds may force clouds, rain, and glaciers to remain on one side of the range, which could increase erosion.  Such concentrated erosion draws more rock upward from within the Earth, increasing the height of the range and further affecting local climate patterns.  Scientists are searching to quantify the interactions and feedbacks among landscapes, tectonics, climate, and life.  For instance, how much could climate change increase rainfall, which in turn would increase the frequency of erosion from landslides?

How does the biogeochemical reactor of the Earth’s surface respond to and shape landscapes on local to global scales? The chemical erosion and weathering of bedrock and soil are among the least understood of the geological processes.  They are often major factors in how landscapes change because of their effects on climate, groundwater and river chemistry, strength of rocks, erosion, and availability of nutrients in soils.  Gaining insight into the nutrient cycle essential to both living organisms and climate, for example, will allow scientists to address the effects of human-induced changes to land and groundwater.

What are the transport laws that govern the evolution of the Earth’s surface? Quantitative approaches are needed to define how and at what rates a process like erosion can shape the landscape.  Significant progress has been made in developing and applying mathematical formulas known as “transport laws” to gauge the rate at which soil is transferred or a river can cut through bedrock.  Nonetheless, scientists still need to establish the transport laws for processes such as landsliding, transport and deposit of mud, and glacial and chemical erosion.

How do ecosystems and landscapes co-evolve? Living organisms strongly influence the form and pace of surface erosion, and they control the nutrient cycle with simultaneous effects on climate, hydrology, erosion, and topography.  Coordinated efforts to identify connections among life forms, surface processes, and landscapes are under way at various field observatories.  However, greater knowledge is needed to develop predictive models and perform experiments that explore the causes, effects, rates, and magnitudes of life-landscape interactions.

What controls landscape resilience to change? Some areas of Earth’s surface are more vulnerable than others to change.  For example, polar and glacial regions are nearing or are in a state of flux predicted to continue with global warming.  Scientists need to better understand how rapid and abrupt changes occur and the factors and processes that make landscapes resilient to these changes.

How will Earth’s surface evolve in the new era? The term “Anthropocene” has been suggested to describe a new era in which humans have become dominant.  Understanding, predicting, and adjusting to changing landscapes increasingly altered by humans constitute pressing challenges, and science is far from developing a general theory of coupled human-natural systems.

How can science contribute to a sustainable Earth surface? With increasing scientific knowledge of the causes and long-term effects of human-induced changes to land, a consensus has emerged that at least some of these disrupted landscapes can and should be restored or redesigned.  Researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and the public have recently begun to examine the success and limitations of past restoration efforts.  Earth surface scientists can contribute to these efforts and provide guidance in future decisions regarding natural and managed landscapes.

In addition, the report proposes four research initiatives, derived from the nine challenges, to provide promising pathways for scientific guidance on issues related to planning, mitigation, and response to changes in the Earth’s surface now and in the future.  The four research areas would delve into understanding interacting landscapes and climate, the co-evolution of ecosystems and landscapes, quantitative reconstruction of landscape dynamics across time scales, and the future of landscapes in the Anthropocene.

Copies of Landscapes on the Edge are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[Source: National Academies press release]

Map of the Day: Geologic Map of the Late Cenozoic Deposits of the Sacramento Valley, California

…from the ESRI Map Book, Volume 24


“This map is a modified digital reproduction of the “Geologic Map of the Late Cenozoic Deposits of the Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierran Foothills, California,” by Edward J. Helley and David S. Harwood (USGS Publication MF-1790, 1985).

“This map was created by scanning the five-sheet set of the original Helley and Harwood map, georeferencing the scanned images, and digitizing the lithologic contacts and other geologic information in AutoCAD 2006. The digitized map was then colored and symbolized in ArcGIS Desktop 9.0 software. The accuracy of the digitized lines is within the accuracy of the originally drafted lines on the paper copy. In general, the width of the contact lines on the paper copy extends to about 20 meters (66 feet).

“Minor topological mistakes (such as identical rock units on both sides of a lithologic contact or unclosed polygons) and omissions (such as unidentified lithologic units) have been corrected to the best of the author’s geologic expertise. Comparisons were made between the five-sheet set and the original Mylar and colored field sheets (as available) in addition to various geologic maps.

“This map was prepared by Jonathan Mulder, engineering geologist, Department of Water Resources, Northern District, Geological Investigations Unit. Assistance with the geological interpretation was provided by Bruce Ross, engineering geologist. Assistance with the digitizing and map layout was provided by student assistants Casey Murray, Clint Andreasen, and Jeremiah Moody.

“Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources.”

GIS for Climate Change Bibliography, Part 4: Sustainability

Building an Oasis in the Desert: GIS Helps Ensure that Masdar City Meets Its Carbon-Neutral, Zero-Waste Goals

Sumatra—Forest Cover and Change 1990–2000

Mapping Ecosystem Services in the Sierra Nevada, California

Global Gap Analysis—August 2003, First Iteration

Global Population Density Estimates for 2015

Combined Suitability of Land for Rainfed Crops and Pastures

3D Population Distribution in the Bay Area in 2000

Food Insecurity and Vulnerability in Sekhukhune, Republic of South Africa

Key Drivers of Food Insecurity and Vulnerability in the Greater Sekhukhune Municipality, Republic of South Africa

Back to the Future

Reducing the Impact of Transportation on the Human Footprint

Regional Conservation Priorities for Upper Guinean and Congo Basin Forests

Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities

The Nature Audit—Cumulative Human Footprint

Atlas of the Biodiversity of California

Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Priority Project Lists I–XIII

Wetland Mitigation: Restoring Montana’s Wetlands

GIS Mapping of the Yields of Ohio’s Aquifers

Rhode Island Land Suitability Analysis for Development Intensity and Conservation

Narragansett Bay Coastal Wetland Trends Analysis 1950s–1990s

Adapting to Climate Change: The Global Adaptation Atlas

FORMA = Forest Monitoring for Action: Tracking Deforestation, One Regression at a Time

CITYgreen Calculates Environmental Benefits of Trees and Green Space

Visualizing Priority Conservation Areas in Western North America

Changing Vegetation and Challenges to Borders of Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo

Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources

Climate Change Impacts on Watersheds in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean

Westchester County’s Green Map Aids County Global Warming Task Force Plans

Delta Habitat Opportunities – Assessing Risks with Climate Change

Developing the Next Generation of Climate Action Plans

Influence of Climate Change on Outbreak of Leaf Spot Disease

Local Climate Change GIS—Data-Based Visioning Tools for Community Decision-Making

Transportation Modeling and Climate Change Analysis

Conserving Bolivia’s Critical Resources

Ecosystem Vulnerability to Climate Change in Panama

Modeling Landscape Connectivity in the Southern Appalachians under Climate Change

Philippine Tarsiers Conservation Program Streamlined with GIS

For Puget Sound, Washington, GIS and Modeling Are Protecting and Restoring Shorelines and Open Spaces

Kenya’s Kiunga Marine National Reserve Studies Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Conservation with GIS

Mapping Benthic Habitats: The Marine GIS Challenge

The Charlotte, North Carolina, Urban Area Now Has a “Green Theme”

Rangeland Health Data Collection and Analysis Improved with Mobile GIS

U.S. Department of Agriculture Produces Objective and Accurate Global Assessments with GIS

Spreading Data Improves Crop Yield

International Coffee Marketing and Certification Aided With GIS

Sri Lanka Uses GIS for Planning and Management of Irrigation Systems

Formulating a Sustainable Development Land Use Scenario Using GIS

Colorado’s North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization Makes Ride Sharing Easier with GIS

Supporting Island Land Conservation

Traditional Knowledge Meets New Tools

Bibliographies in this series: