DEFENSE: An Early Warning System for Torrential Processes by Radar Storm Tracking using GIS

Computers & GeosciencesComputers & Geosciences, Published Online 17 May 2014

By Davide Tiranti, Roberto Cremonini, Federica Marco, Armando Riccardo Gaeta, and Secondo Barbero


  • A software tool for debris flows forecasting in Alpine environment are described.
  • The warning tool merges a new basin classification and the storm tracking by radar.
  • The observed/nowcasted rainfall can be compared with a thresholds system.
  • The approach is oriented to real-time analysis and nowcasting-derived products.
  • Real-time application of GIS tools to predict severe storm ground effects.

“Debris flows, responsible for economic losses and occasionally casualties in the alpine region, are mainly triggered by heavy rains characterized by hourly peaks of varying intensity, depending on the features of the basin under consideration. By integrating a recent classification of alpine basins with the radar storm tracking method, an innovative early warning system called DEFENSE (DEbris Flows triggEred by storms – Nowcasting SystEm) was developed using a Geographical Information System (GIS).

Example of storm tracking and nowcasting. Storm UTC time is shown in the centre of the cells, while colours identify storm severity and the cone represents the forecasted path.

Example of storm tracking and nowcasting. Storm UTC time is shown in the centre of the cells, while colours identify storm severity and the cone represents the forecasted path.

“Alpine catchments were classified into three main classes based on the weathering capacity of the bedrock into clay or clay-like minerals, the amount of which, in unconsolidated material, directly influences the debris flow rheology, and thus the sedimentary processes, the alluvial fan architecture, as well as the triggering frequency and seasonal occurrence probability of debris flows. Storms were identified and tracked by processing weather radar observations; subsequently, rainfall intensities and storm severity were estimated over each classified basin. Due to rainfall threshold values determined for each basin class, based on statistical analysis of historical records, an automatic corresponding warning could be issued to municipalities.”

Understanding and Managing Our Oceans: Esri Ocean GIS Forum, 05-07 November 2014

Esri logoSee different ways that ocean and maritime agencies are successfully using geospatial analysis to better understand the ocean’s dynamic environment and make intelligent decisions. The Esri Ocean GIS Forum is your opportunity to explore new GIS technology.

Ocean scientists, hydrographers, and GIS experts will be addressing topics that are particularly relevant to people who work for research institutions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seafood companies, energy providers, local and state governments, port authorities, shipping companies, the US Coast Guard, and the US Navy.

The Esri Ocean GIS Forum is a unique event that offers these activities:

  • A rigorous agenda of session topics presented by GIS users that work in the ocean and maritime industries
  • Best practice presentations by project managers from ocean agencies
  • An ocean science forum to share and exchange ideas
  • ArcGIS and ArcGIS Online technical demonstrations set in an ocean and maritime context
  • Meet-and-greet opportunities for expanding professional networks
  • On-site GIS professionals and domain experts that can answer questions and offer advice
  • An EXPO sponsored by ocean and maritime business consultants and technology providers
  • An app contest for posters and Story Maps
  • Two GIS hands-on workshops
  • Learning Lab

Immerse yourself in all things GIS at the Esri Ocean GIS Forum.

GeoPlanner for ArcGIS Enables Resilient Design

Create and Share Plans Easily with Esri Geodesign Application

Esri recently released a web app called GeoPlanner for ArcGISthat brings the power of geodesign to land-based planning. GeoPlanner for ArcGIS is a JavaScript-based application that requires no plug-ins and has been designed to run in web browsers on both desktop and standard-sized tablet devices supporting a minimum 1024 x 768 resolution.

GeoPlanner for ArcGISincorporates each aspect of a complete planning workflow—project creation, data identification, comparative analysis, and reporting—into a single web-based application. The app helps planners from a wide range of industries create and report on alternative planning scenarios to make geographically informed decisions.

Create, analyze, and report on alternative planning scenarios using the new GeoPlanner for ArcGIS app.

Create, analyze, and report on alternative planning scenarios using the new GeoPlanner for ArcGIS app.

GeoPlanner for ArcGIS comes with several ready-to-use planning templates for land-use planning, special event planning, and more, and it can be easily configured using ArcGIS for Desktop to meet the needs of your specific industry or organization.

You can purchase the GeoPlanner for ArcGIS app from ArcGIS Marketplace. You will need an ArcGIS Online subscription or a trial account to start using the app.

People outside the United States should contact Esri Offices in their area.

[Source: Esri press release]

Ocean Industries and the Global Oceans Action Summit

World Ocean CouncilWOC Working to Ensure Industry Input to Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth (The Hague, 22 – 25 April 2014)

The World Ocean Council (WOC) is working to help ensure ocean business community participation in the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth (The Hague, 22 – 25 April 2014).

Organized by the Netherlands, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank, the Global Oceans Action Summit seeks to convene global leaders, ocean practitioners, business, science, civil society and international agencies to share experiences and demonstrate how combined action in partnerships for healthier and productive oceans can drive sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

The organizers have invited WOC to reach out to the global ocean business community and encourage participation in the Global Oceans Action Summit. The event organizers are especially interested in participation from the seafood, fisheries, aquaculture, oil/gas, and shipping sectors, but also from a wide range of ocean industries.

The WOC has been invited to participate in the summit’s high level session on Thursday 24 April as part of assuring that the event does connect with diverse ocean business community, as well as being invited to participate in panels on Blue Growth.

The Global Oceans Action Summit will highlight the need to address successful integrated approaches that attract public-private partners, secure financing and catalyze good ocean governance while balancing between (i) growth and conservation, (ii) private sector interests and equitable benefits for communities and (iii) Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

For more info on the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth, see

[Source: World Ocean Council  press release]

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]

A Simple Story Map-based Real-Time Dashboard for the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon

Located in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest supports research on forests, streams, and watersheds, and fosters strong collaboration among ecosystem science, education, natural resource management, and the humanities. The Forest is administered cooperatively by the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, Oregon State University, and the Willamette National Forest.

As a charter member of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, the site contributes to the collection of long-term datasets to support research on ecological issues that can last decades.  Using Esri’s story maps technology, a simple map-based dashboard was developed to let researchers, administrators, and the general public view real-time data from 125 different sensors including webcams, stream gauges, and weather stations deployed throughout the forest.

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Dashboard

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Dashboard. Click to view the live dashboard.

“The dashboard is a really nice way to see all these data streams in their spatial context” said Mark Schulze, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Director.  “Being able to look at all these sensors in real time is hugely helpful for making interpretations about how our climate/weather functions in the Andrews Forest,” added Julia Jones, Geosciences Professor at Oregon State University.

View the dashboard:

Global Forest Watch Maps Now Available on ArcGIS Online

Data from Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring and alert system is now available on Esri’s ArcGIS Online GIS cloud service. By using a portal on Esri’s platform to access GFW Global Forest Watch satellite data and crowd-sourced information, people can add powerful maps, datasets, and applications to their forest projects and better analyze indicators of forest change.

Global Forest Watch, a partnership of more than 40 organizations led by the World Resources Institute, uses GIS maps and data to promote sustainable forest management and policy. Esri, the world leader in GIS, strongly supports the GFW mission to empower people everywhere to better manage forests.

“Thanks to dramatic advances in technology, we can, for the first time, see what is happening in forests in near real-time,” Dr. Nigel Sizer, director of the global forest initiative World Resources Institute said. “GIS helps us take very powerful data and make sense of it. The analytical capabilities of GIS enrich our understanding of the earth’s forests of not only where but why and how.”

On February 20, World Resources Institute launched the Global Forest Watch website. In tandem with the launch, Global Forest Watch data went live on ArcGIS Online, extending the GIS cloud platform to Global Forest Watch data users. People can use the service to track deforestation throughout the world.

“Monitoring forest health and designing sustainable solutions is a challenging task, but an essential one,” Esri president Jack Dangermond said. “The Global Forest Watch initiative demonstrates the capacity of open data, shared systems, and platform technologies to bring many experts together to design solutions for a universal problem.”

To promote transparency in forests around the world, Global Forest Watch combines near real-time satellite monitoring technology, forest management and company concession maps, protected-area maps, mobile technology, crowd-sourced data, and on-the-ground networks. Within ArcGIS Online, users can now access Global Forest Watch data and add it to a basemap. They can also draw from Esri’s massive data collection, such as Landsat, to get a more comprehensive perspective about complex problems. In addition, they have access to Esri’s premium content as well as content added to the service by users every day.

Esri, along with more than 40 organizations, participated in creating the strategic vision and implementation of Global Forest Watch’s online tool at Esri’s application extends the analytical capabilities of this data. The Global Forest Watch platform is intended for use by stakeholders in the world’s forests, including concerned citizens, government leaders, buyers, and suppliers of sustainable forest products who seek to better manage forests and improve local livelihoods.

[Source: Esri news release]

Participatory Development of a New Interactive Tool for Capturing Social and Ecological Dynamism in Conservation Prioritization

Landscape and Urban PlanningLandscape and Urban Planning, Volume 114, June 2013, Pages 80–91

By Petina L. Pert, Scott N. Lieske, and Rosemary Hill


  • The Collaborative Habitat Investment Atlas is an interactive spatial tool.
  • Allows display and rapid adjustment to stakeholder and habitat values.
  • Enables on-the-fly changes to “optimal” landscape designs values.
  • Models “levels of protection” of multiple habitat laws at many scales.
  • Outputs include maps of habitat prioritization for multi-scalar planning.

“Conservation tools have historically been oriented toward optimization for singular decision-makers. A new generation of participatory tools is now appearing and have begun to recognize multiple human values and decision-makers. However, very few tools accommodate a fully interactive process that can account for both ecological and social dynamism and complexity. The Collaborative Habitat Investment Atlas (CHIA) is a participatory tool for conservation prioritization with a strong visual and dynamic capability. The CHIA promotes interaction among stakeholders through two aspects: stakeholders’ ability to alter variable weights to reflect different biodiversity protection requirements; and formula-based dynamic attributes that immediately update results visually.

The overall CHIA modeling process showing engagements and stakeholder values incorporated by slider-bar functionality, data attributes, dynamic updating of attributes (as values adjusted by slider-bars), biodiversity model, level of protection model and threat model and an example of conservation prioritization output map.

The overall CHIA modeling process showing engagements and stakeholder values incorporated by slider-bar functionality, data attributes, dynamic updating of attributes (as values adjusted by slider-bars), biodiversity model, level of protection model and threat model and an example of conservation prioritization output map.

“This paper documents the development of the CHIA within its role as a part of an overall adaptive community-based natural resource management pilot project in Australia’s globally significant humid tropical forests. There are two primary innovations of this approach. The first innovation is the dynamic updating of values and other data, allowing rapid feedback on “what-if?” type questions and enhances the public engagement processes. The second innovation is the recognition and spatial description of different levels of protection across the landscape. Results include parcel-based maps that display the three models: biodiversity importance, level of protection and threat. Additionally, the three models were combined and two examples of suitability maps to aid conservation decision-making are included. When integrated into a conservation planning process the CHIA opens lines of communication, allows exploration of alternatives and enables prioritization of investment that captures the diversity of stakeholder preferences in multiple social decision making contexts.”

A Novel Electronic Data Collection System for Large-Scale Surveys of Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLoS ONE 8(9): e74570, 2013

By Jonathan D. King, Joy Buolamwini, Elizabeth A. Cromwell, Andrew Panfel, Tesfaye Teferi, Mulat Zerihun, Berhanu Melak, Jessica Watson, Zerihun Tadesse, Danielle Vienneau, Jeremiah Ngondi, Jürg Utzinger, Peter Odermatt, and Paul M. Emerson

Background: Large cross-sectional household surveys are common for measuring indicators of neglected tropical disease control programs. As an alternative to standard paper-based data collection, we utilized novel paperless technology to collect data electronically from over 12,000 households in Ethiopia.

Capturing the identification number from a barcode-labeled stool specimen

Capturing the identification number from a barcode-labeled stool specimen

Methodology: We conducted a needs assessment to design an Android-based electronic data collection and management system. We then evaluated the system by reporting results of a pilot trial and from comparisons of two, large-scale surveys; one with traditional paper questionnaires and the other with tablet computers, including accuracy, person-time days, and costs incurred.

Principle Findings: The electronic data collection system met core functions in household surveys and overcame constraints identified in the needs assessment. Pilot data recorders took 264 (standard deviation (SD) 152 sec) and 260 sec (SD 122 sec) per person registered to complete household surveys using paper and tablets, respectively (P = 0.77). Data recorders felt a lack of connection with the interviewee during the first days using electronic devices, but preferred to collect data electronically in future surveys. Electronic data collection saved time by giving results immediately, obviating the need for double data entry and cross-correcting. The proportion of identified data entry errors in disease classification did not differ between the two data collection methods. Geographic coordinates collected using the tablets were more accurate than coordinates transcribed on a paper form. Costs of the equipment required for electronic data collection was approximately the same cost incurred for data entry of questionnaires, whereas repeated use of the electronic equipment may increase cost savings.

Distance between the recorded location of a surveyed household and the cluster centroid

Distance between the recorded location of a surveyed household and the cluster centroid

Conclusions/Significance: Conducting a needs assessment and pilot testing allowed the design to specifically match the functionality required for surveys. Electronic data collection using an Android-based technology was suitable for a large-scale health survey, saved time, provided more accurate geo-coordinates, and was preferred by recorders over standard paper-based questionnaires.”

Call for Papers — Geodesign: Changing the World, Changing Design

Landscape and Urban Planning (LAND)Guest Editors: Frederick R. Steiner and Allan W. Shearer, School of Architecture, The University of Texas at Austin

Geodesign is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that has evolved from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and encompasses digital, two-, three-, and four-dimensional representation tools developed in the environmental design disciplines. Over a relatively short span of time, Geodesign has gone from a neologism to the topic of international professional conferences to the focus of research centers to the premise for new classes at many institutions of higher learning and degrees at leading universities. Yet, despite so much activity—or, perhaps, because of it—there is no commonly agreed upon definition for the word.
The purpose of the special issue of Landscape and Urban Planning (LAND) is to provide a basis for common understanding of what Geodesign is by asking what Geodesign does. We seek papers that examine how questions of environmental change have been posed in Geodesign and that demonstrate how the answers allow for, or demand, new models of design practice and education.
We welcome such investigations in the forms of review articles, research articles, case studies, and discussions about research needs and pedagogy. We anticipate submissions that draw upon the disciplines of geography, computer science, and the environmental sciences, as well as landscape architecture, community and regional planning, and architecture.

Abstract and Manuscript Submission
An abstract of 800 words or less, specifying title, author(s), affiliation and e-mail address, should be sent to Dr. Allan W. Shearer ( by 15 February 2014. Abstracts will be shortlisted by the editorial panel against the criteria of originality, methodological quality, and relevance. Authors of abstracts demonstrating clear scholarly merits will be invited to submit a full manuscript.
Invited manuscripts should be should be between 4,000–8,000 words and submitted through the LAND website by 15 June 2014. All papers submitted for this Special Issue will undergo the usual LAND peer review process. Details on article type and format are available from the LAND journal website at: