Climate Change-related Vulnerabilities and Local Environmental Public Health Tracking through GEMSS: A Web-based Visualization Tool

Applied GeographyApplied Geography, Volume 33, April 2012

Adele Houghton, Natasha Prudent, James E. Scott III, Richard Wade, and George Luber


  • Platform for tracking local climate change environmental public health indicators.
  • Visualization of potential health, vulnerability impacts of climate change policy.
  • Vulnerability indicators primarily used existing, freely available data sources.

“Climate change will impact health through a variety of pathways – both direct and indirect. Identifying the specific link between climate-related hazards and vulnerability will require the integration of socio-environmental, meteorological, and health data. An enhanced monitoring and tracking system is critical for public health efforts to identify and reach populations vulnerable to climate-related hazards, mobilize resources, and inform local climate action policy to reduce climate-related health risks.

“In this paper we present a novel application of a geospatial tool that integrates multiple data sources, allowing for the streamlined visualization of environmental risk, socio-economic and demographic vulnerability, baseline mortality, and policy intervention measures. GEMSS (Geospatial Emergency Management Support System) is a browser-based application that is designed to assemble geospatial information from multiple local or remote sources in a common operating environment, allowing for multi-data visualization. Using vulnerability to extreme heat and heavy rainfall-induced flooding as climate impacts on health, we tested GEMSS’s capability as a multi-data platform to visually analyze spatial patterns of climate change environmental public health indicators at the local level. The selected indicators relied on socio-environmental and demographic vulnerability, health, policy, and weather data.

“The GEMSS system has the potential to support multiple goals including: a) the ongoing monitoring and assessment of climate-related vulnerability through visualization; b) providing policymakers with an open-source tool for understanding how vulnerable populations and the environment could be impacted by proposed climate action policies; c) tracking the ongoing status of climate change policies in reducing socio-environmental vulnerability; d) raising awareness among the general public about the links between climate change and public health; and, e) providing a basis for epidemiologic research (i.e., identifying gaps between climate and human vulnerability leading to hypotheses and hypotheses-testing).”

Crowdsourcing, Citizen Sensing and Sensor Web Technologies for Public and Environmental Health Surveillance and Crisis Management: Trends, OGC Standards and Application Examples

International Journal of Health GeographicsInternational Journal of Health Geographics 10:67, Published 21 December 2011

Maged N Kamel Boulos, Bernd Resch, David N Crowley, John G Breslin, Gunho Sohn, Russ Burtner, William A Pike, Eduardo Jezierski and Kuo-Yu Slayer Chuang

“‘Wikification of GIS by the masses’ is a phrase-term first coined by Kamel Boulos in 2005, two years earlier than Goodchild’s term ‘Volunteered Geographic Information’. Six years later (2005-2011), OpenStreetMap and Google Earth (GE) are now full-fledged, crowdsourced ‘Wikipedias of the Earth’ par excellence, with millions of users contributing their own layers to GE, attaching photos, videos, notes and even 3-D (three dimensional) models to locations in GE.

Mobile CO measurements in the city of Copenhagen (December 2009)

Mobile CO measurements in the city of Copenhagen (December 2009)

“From using Twitter in participatory sensing and bicycle-mounted sensors in pervasive environmental sensing, to creating a 100,000-sensor geo-mashup using Semantic Web technology, to the 3-D visualisation of indoor and outdoor surveillance data in real-time and the development of next-generation, collaborative natural user interfaces that will power the spatially-enabled public health and emergency situation rooms of the future, where sensor data and citizen reports can be triaged and acted upon in real-time by distributed teams of professionals, this paper offers a comprehensive state-of-the-art review of the overlapping domains of the Sensor Web, citizen sensing and ‘human-in-the-loop sensing’ in the era of the Mobile and Social Web, and the roles these domains can play in environmental and public health surveillance and crisis/disaster informatics. We provide an in-depth review of the key issues and trends in these areas, the challenges faced when reasoning and making decisions with real-time crowdsourced data (such as issues of information overload, “noise”, misinformation, bias and trust), the core technologies and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards involved (Sensor Web Enablement and Open GeoSMS), as well as a few outstanding project implementation examples from around the world. ”

GIS Cloud to be Featured at Eye on Earth Summit

Esri logoEsri Platform Supports Collaborative Environmental Problem Solving

At the Eye on Earth Summit Esri will describe how cloud GIS is positioned to create an international geospatial platform for sharing environmental data and designing solutions. Also former US president Bill Clinton, Esri president Jack Dangermond, and European Environment Agency (EEA) director Jacquelyn McGlade will join other renowned speakers to present the value of accessible data for international collaboration and decision making.

The Eye on Earth network will be featured at the summit in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates, on December 12–15, 2011. Esri, Microsoft, and EEA have pooled their expertise to retool EEA’s Eye on Earth with a cloud-based geospatial content management system modeled after ArcGIS Online. The Eye on Earth network now provides tools for creating maps, accessing thousands of readily available maps and datasets, and managing geospatial content. People can use the network to share content with the public and among groups or to use privately. Governments, research organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the public can use the network to work together to understand problems, develop policy, design plans, and take action. Furthermore, the cloud-configured network provides the foundation for other regions to create similar environmental platforms.

“People truly care about their environment, but they can be at a loss as to how to participate in policy and make a difference,” said Dangermond. “By putting environmental and social information into the hands of many people, the Eye on Earth network will become a catalyst for conversation. We think this is going to bring people to their feet by empowering them to understand problems and be part of the solutions.”

Esri’s ArcGIS Online technology, coupled with Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure, allows EEA to host and maintain the platform, create database and business process management systems, and integrate security constraints. GIS web apps help user groups create and share map-based services, perform analysis, and publish geospatial products.

In the summit’s pavilion, experts will demonstrate the Eye on Earth network’s capabilities such as citizen engagement and collaborative environmental problem solving.

[Source: Esri press release]

Eye on Earth Enables Cloud-Based Environmental Data Sharing

The European Environment Agency, Esri, and Microsoft launch new online community and application development platform

The European Environment Agency (EEA), Esri and Microsoft Corp. today announced, at the 17th Conference of the Parties(COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the launch of the Eye on Earth network, an online community for developing innovative services that map environmental parameters. The new cloud computing-based network provides a collaborative online service for hosting, sharing and discovering data on the environment and promotes the principles of public data access and citizen science. In addition, the organisations also announced NoiseWatch, a new web service available on the Eye on Earth network that measures noise in 164 European cities.

Eye On Earth

The Eye on Earth network provides organisations with a security-enhanced central location for managing their geospatial environmental content. It uses Esri’s ArcGIS Online cloud services coupled with Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure, and it hosts the data in the Environmental Data Store. The network’s user interface enables the easy creation and sharing of map-based services, translating complex scientific data into accessible, interactive and visual web services. With Eye on Earth, users can create and share maps within their organisation or make the content publicly available as web-accessible services. Eye on Earth was first launched in 2008 as part of a public-private partnership between the EEA and Microsoft with the joint goal of making environmental data available to all 600 million citizens across the EEA’s 32 member and seven cooperating countries.

“The launch of the Eye on Earth network is a great leap forward in helping organisations provide the public with authoritative data on the environment and in helping citizens around the world better understand some of the most pressing environmental challenges in their local area,” said Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of EEA. “With the input of environmental stakeholders globally, we’re pleased to see the network expand and become a vital service for those interested in learning more about the environment. Environmental policy makers also have a new tool to understand and visualise environmental information to support good environmental policy making.”

The network is being launched with three Eye on Earth services available – WaterWatch, AirWatch and NoiseWatch, which are being made available today at COP17. WaterWatch uses the EEA’s environmental data to monitor and display water quality ratings across Europe’s public swimming sites. Also built from the EEA’s data, AirWatch illustrates air quality ratings in Europe. NoiseWatch combines the EEA’s data with input from citizens. Noise Meter, a new mobile application for noise level readings available on mobile operating systems Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.5, allows users to take noise level readings from their mobile devices and instantly upload them into NoiseWatch’s database.

“With the launch of the new Eye on Earth network, citizens, governments and scientists now have an easy-to-use, scalable platform for collecting, sharing and visualising the world’s critical environmental data,” said Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft. “I am excited by the possibilities that technology provides to transform data into powerful, visual maps that everyone can interact with. The impact of projects such as Eye on Earth shows the potential that new types of partnerships and technology can yield.”

“Eye on Earth allows for extensive collaboration among European agencies and communities,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri president. “This platform, based on ArcGIS Online, is putting environmental information into the hands of many. It equips people with tools and information to engage in conversation, analysis, reporting and policy making. In addition, this platform, developed for Europe, can be implemented in other countries and regions of the world.”

Next week at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi, a Rio+20 preparatory meeting, a consortium of partners will meet to re-affirm the importance of providing environmental data through the Eye on Earth network.

More information about Eye on Earth is available at

About the European Environment Agency

The European Environment Agency is the European Union body dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment. The agency aims to achieve significant and measurable improvements in Europe’s environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy-makers and the public. More information about the EEA is available at

About Esri

Founded in 1969, Esri ( is the world leader in the GIS software industry. Esri offers innovative solutions that help users create, manage, analyze, and display information to make timely decisions and solve problems they encounter every day. Esri’s comprehensive product line ranges from desktop GIS to GIS for the enterprise.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)

Microsoft has operated in EMEA since 1982. In the region Microsoft employs more than 16,000 people in over 64 subsidiaries, delivering products and services in more than 139 countries and territories.

[Source: Microsoft press release]

GeoTAIS: An Application of Spatial Analysis for Traffic Safety Improvements on Provincial Highways in Saskatchewan

Annual Conference of the Transportation Association of CanadaAnnual Conference of the Transportation Association of Canada, 2011

Brandt Denham, George Eguakun, and Kwei Quaye

“Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) is responsible for collecting and maintaining a comprehensive database of traffic accidents. This data is used by SGI and other safety partners for monitoring, decision making and the evaluation of traffic safety program initiatives in Saskatchewan. The GeoTAIS project was launched in July of 2010 in an effort to enhance the quality of Saskatchewan’s traffic accident database to keep up with cutting edge traffic safety analysis/research and to facilitate the provision of well informed traffic safety programs in Saskatchewan.

Actual Wildlife Accident Locations on Highway 16, Control Section 24

Actual Wildlife Accident Locations on Highway 16, Control Section 24

“The overarching goal of the project is to develop a Geographic Information System (GIS) that would allow for the visual representation of the traffic accident data captured in the SGI’s Traffic Accident Information System (TAIS) and SGI’s claims information systems in a spatial format. The second goal of the project is to deploy guidelines from the recently published AASHTO Highway Safety Manual combined with the spatial data from GeoTAIS to develop Safety Performance Functions (SPFs) for all provincial highways in Saskatchewan. The final goal of the project is to utilize the spatial data, SPFs and the Empirical Bayes (EB) method to visually identify collision hotspots and areas in the provincial road network with high potential for safety improvements. The success of the project will help ensure that traffic safety problem identification, investments, monitoring, and program evaluation in Saskatchewan are informed by the best data in a speedy and efficient manner. This paper discusses the development of the GeoTAIS project and its application in identifying hazardous wildlife crash locations as part of the ongoing efforts to improve traffic safety on Saskatchewan’s provincial highways.”

Using Geographical Information Systems Mapping to Identify Areas Presenting High Risk for Traumatic Brain Injury

Emerging Themes in EpidemiologyEmerging Themes in Epidemiology, 8:7, 04 November 2011

Colantonio A, Moldofsky B, Escobar M, Vernich L, Chipman M, and McLellan B

“Background: The aim of this study is to show how geographical information systems (GIS) can be used to track and compare hospitalization rates for traumatic brain injury (TBI) over time and across a large geographical area using population based data.

“Results & Discussion: Data on TBI hospitalizations, and geographic and demographic variables, came from the Ontario Trauma Registry Minimum Data Set for the fiscal years 1993-1994 and 2001-2002. Various visualization techniques, exploratory data analysis and spatial analysis were employed to map and analyze these data. Both the raw and standardized rates by age/gender of the geographical unit were studied.

Example of mapping of TBI rates and cluster analyses

Example of mapping of TBI rates and cluster analyses.

“Data analyses revealed persistent high rates of hospitalization for TBI resulting from any injury mechanism between two time periods in specific geographic locations.

“Conclusions: This study shows how geographic information systems can be successfully used to investigate hospitalizaton rates for traumatic brain injury using a range of tools and techniques; findings can be used for local planning of both injury prevention and post discharge services, including rehabilitation.”

Geostatistical Approaches for Geovisual Data Exploration, Analysis and 3D-Visualisation in Civil Security

GeoViz: Linking Geovisualization with Spatial Analysis and Modeling, 10-11 March 2011, Hamburg, Germany

Markus Wolff and Julia Gonschorek

“This contribution presents selected approaches, methods and tools to facilitate geovisual analytical data exploration for civil security purposes. To analyse large emergency service data of a major German city’s fire department, different data mining techniques are applied. This allows identifying statistical significant clusters in space and time. To facilitate convenient methods for exploring such complex datasets, a GIS-based software is developed. For visualisation and interactive exploration these results are integrated into a three-dimensional geovirtual environment.”