GeoCarta Has Moved

Feb 28, 2007

NAVTEQ Releases Digital Map of Thailand

NAVTEQ announced that it has released its first digital map of Thailand. The map covers a population of more than six million and includes over 15,500 kilometers of road network within the province of Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon).

Rafay Khan, Vice President for the firm's Asia Pacific division says it's part of NAVTEQ'S plan to establish a establish a presence and do business in local markets to meet the needs of the firm's global customers.

Currently NAVTEQ offers digital maps in nine countries or territories in the Asia Pacific region. The firm plans to release maps for six more countries or territories this year.

Based in Chicago, NAVTEQ employs about 2,100 people across the world developing and updating digital map information for automotive, mobile and Internet-based mapping applications.

Labels: ,

Feb 26, 2007

Cartographers to Defend Criticized Map at Meeting

Makers of a map defining habitat for the endangered box turtle will meet to explain their map as well as the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Personnel from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, will meet with elected officials and the public the Lakeville, Library at 7 p.m. on March 8 South Coast Today reported.

When released back in October, the map drew sharp criticism from local officials when it was learned that the map depicted a planned industrial park as home to the endangered turtle. The map reportedly also marks other areas that had been planned for development as endangered species habitats.

Labels: ,

Feb 25, 2007

Musuem of Surveying Headed to Illinois

The Museum of Surveying will relocate to Springfield, Illinois, the State Journal-Register reported. Currently located in Lansing, Michigan, the Museum of Surveying is the only museum in North America dedicated solely to the surveying and mapping profession. It houses a collection of surveying artifacts, early surveying and mapping instruments, and historical literature.

The Journal-Register reported that a formal announcement is expected March 13th. At that time, it is expected that the museum will announce that it will occupy a 10,000 square feet facility on the north side of Old Capitol Plaza in downtown Springfield.


Feb 24, 2007

So Long to Stand-Alone GPS Units?

Could the days of dash-mounted or handheld GPS units be numbered? Chicago Tribune Technology writer Eric Benderoff thinks so. In an article carried in the the Wichita Eagle, Mr. Benderoff argues that such devices will be replaced by GPS-enabled cellphones:

Last week, as I read about a parade of mobile phone-based navigation debuts at a European trade show, that thought turned into pessimism for Garmin, Tom Tom, Chicago's Cobra Electronics and other makers of stand-alone global positioning systems.
But the future is in the palm of your hand, not on the dashboard of your car.
In the short term, you will see healthy market gains, such as Garmin's fourth-quarter performance, released last week, showing earnings more than doubled. Sales of stand-alone units from all makers are expected to double this year.

But long term, the momentum will swing to the mobile phone-makers, thanks, in part, to an unlikely marketing partner: the federal government.

Due to the recently enacted e-911 rules that say mobile-phone users must be able to be located by police or fire departments in case of an emergency, there are millions of phones in the United States that contain GPS chips.

Even though few of those phones take advantage of their devices' GPS DNA so far, that's rapidly changing.

As people shop for new phones when service contracts expire, they will see phones with bigger and brighter screens, ideal for GPS. Plus, the carriers are good at enticements too.

Mr. Benderoff points out that not everyone agrees the the prediction of death for the handheld GPS unit. Robert Gourdine, director of marketing and business development at Navteq Inc. points out that right now dash-mounted navigation devices hold "just a fraction of the total potential for the market." However, since Navteq provides digital maps for both cellphone makers and handhelds, that's what you'd expect him to say.


GPS III Bid Process About to Begin

The U.S. Department of Defense is expected to seek bids for the first phase of its GPS III contract in mid-to-late March. A single winning team will be named by late August, Fobes quoted a spokeswoman for the Air Force as saying. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. will vie for the multibillion-dollar contract to supply the Air Force up to 32 next-generation global positioning satellites.

Global Positioning System III, will replace 24 satellites currently in orbit. The new system has a number of new features designed to improve navigation as well as make it more difficult for enemies of the U.S. to disable.

More from Forbes:

The first phase of the contract, according to the Air Force, will be for eight satellites to be delivered by 2013. The second phase is for another eight satellites by 2016, and the third phase is for another 16 satellites by 2019.

The overall cost of the new satellite system has yet to be determined. However, based on the Bush administration's proposed budget for fiscal years 2008-2013, roughly $4.26 billion has been designated to GPS III for research and development funding. That figure excludes procurement funding.

Both Lockheed and Boeing have already received roughly $85 million from the Air Force for initial planning and development for the first phase of the contract, according to Maj. Regina Winchester, a Pentagon-based spokeswoman for the Air Force. The department will complete its cost evaluation this spring.

See Also:
Commerce Dept. Announces Plans For GPS Upgrade
Air Force Considers Outsiders for GPS Work


Feb 23, 2007

Privacy Concerns a Key Hurdle for Locaton Based Services

Most mobile phone users in the U.S. worry about privacy when it comes to next-generation telecommunications technologies a recent survey found. Harris Interactive polled 1,028 adults in the U.S. to determine public attitudes on location-based services (LBS). LBS uses GPS-enabled cell phones to target custom advertising and services to the user.

Harris found that about 1 in 4 mobile phone owners would like to be able to find out the availability of their contacts (available, busy on a call, unavailable). 18% would be very interested in the ability to determine the current location of persons on their contact list and 14% would like to be able to find out where their contacts had been recently. However, when those same respondents were asked how they would feel about other people having the same information about them, the majority said that such services would be an invasion of their privacy.

When asked how they would feel about people knowing their location, most people wanted to keep that in the family:

  • 58% said that they would want their spouse to know where they were.
  • 46% were okay with their children having access to the same information.
  • 6% would want their co-workers to know where they were and
  • 5% would want their employers to have access to their location

While often touted as the next big thing, LBS hasn't caught fire yet, Only 4% of those surveyed said that they would switch wireless carriers to have LBS features. Joe Porus a VP at Harris Interactive says that LBS will eventually catch on, "But providers must give users control over location-based features to allay privacy concerns." Not surprisingly, among the first groups expected to embrace LBS technology: teenagers.

The complete report is here.
See also: Location Technology One Of The Fastest Growing Sectors Of GPS Technology.

Labels: ,

GIS Maps Clean Water in Africa

Scientists, working with volunteers, at Earthwatch have compiled a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database of water availability and water quality in Kenya’s Samburu region.

The new GIS database maps water sources, quality, seasonal variability, as well as habitat quality for wildlife and livestock. These maps provide the latest information on water resources, and will be shared with local communities to inform management plans for settlement, grazing, and conservation lands.

The map may also help with public health issues, an important feature in a land where 80% of the diseases diagnosed are waterborne. “If we know a patient comes from a community where the database shows the water is high in amoebas, we know that the patient has a higher chance for that,” said Philip Leitore, a coordinator at Wamba Mission Hospital, which has a partnership with the Earthwatch's Samburu Field Center. Last year the lab at Wamba Mission Hospital detected cholera in a water sample by Earthwatch-supported scientists, prevented a public epidemic that could have affected many in the Samburu population.

The GIS database also shows how wet and dry seasons affect water quality, helping to warn people when and where outbreaks might occur. “We can share data in a context that communities will understand,” said Fred Atieno, a GIS expert. Layers of information can be added to the GIS maps that show the region’s roads, villages, markets, schools, and other features familiar to local communities. Different layers show water source locations and quality, seasonal rivers, and where there is good grazing land or scrubland.


Feb 21, 2007

U.S. Defense Dept. Releases Geospatial Standards

The U.S. Department of Defense National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has issued a document, "Enabling A Common Vision", which outlines the overall National System for Geospatial-Intelligence (NSG) standards baseline, Military & Aerospace Electronics reported.

In the document, the NSG has endorsed a set of key specifications known collectively as the OGC Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) 1.0 baseline. These OGC standards include the OpenGIS Specifications for Web Feature Service (WFS), Geography Markup Language (GML), Web Map Service (WMS), Styled Layer Descriptor (SLD), Catalogue Services (CS-Web), and Filter Encoding Specification (FE). Other standards included are ISO 19115 Geographic Information - Metadata, and ISO 19119 Geographics Information - Services.

The NSG standards have a lot in common with those in use by other government agencies and civilians. That was done to allow those involved in Homeland Security to share geospatial data and knowledge other organizations.

Formed in response to September 11, the National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards (NCGIS) develops and coordinates geospatial standards with the Department of Defense and other intelligence agencies.

Enabling a Common Vision here.

Labels: ,

Feb 20, 2007

Mapping Disease on the Web

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program in Boston have launched a real-time, web-based, world map of recently reported cases of infectious diseases. HEALTHmap provides a unified view of the current state of infectious diseases across the globe, utilizing a variety of data sources. The data is aggregated by disease and displayed on the map. Clicking on the pushpin yields a link for the user to click for more information.

The map is aimed primarily at public health officials and international travelers. The site was developed by infectious diseases researcher John Brownstein, PhD, and research software developer, Clark Freifeld. Both work at the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program, a multidisciplinary applied research program at Children's Hospital Boston and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Sciences and Technology.

You can view the map here.


Feb 17, 2007

Finding Fido With GPS

Okay, after last week's post I'm thinking of adding a regular Saturday feature called "Weird Uses for GPS."

Petsmobility is touting its PETsCELL™, a 2 way voice-enabled, GPS pet tracking device that is worn on the pet’s collar. The company breathlessly refers to the device as "long awaited". I suppose the system is suppose to replace the traditional nailing of signs to telephone poles as a means of locating your lost dog.

PETsCELL™, is a waterproof, 2-way communication device, with GPS. It provides your pet’s location in real time through a desk top PC or hand held device and will email you if your dog leaves home. The company says they are demonstrating the device to major corporations across North America prior to release, presumably trying to get them to agree to carry it.

Come to think of it, I may skip the new feature. There's so many of these GPS gadgets coming out it could be a blog of its own.

See also: GPS Has Gone To The Dogs

Labels: ,

The Self-Taught Scientist Who Surveyed a Capitol

Yesterday's Times Herald-Record has a brief profile of one of the most fascinating scientific figures of early American history, Benjamin Banneker. Born in 1731, the free son of a slave, Mr. Banneker was a self-taught clock maker, astronomer, and surveyor, as well as a best-selling author. Those may seem like odd combinations today. However, in colonial times, clock makers frequently crafted a wide range of scientific instruments. He surveyed what became Washington, D.C.

While the credit for the design of Washington D.C. usually goes to Maj. Andrew Endicott and French architect Pierre L'Enfant, it was Mr. Banneker who did most of the actual work. When Mr. L'Enfant became angry with his superiors and abandoned the project, taking the only set of design plans with him, President George Washington proposed hiring a new architect. Instead, Mr. Banneker created an entire new set of plans, from memory, saving the young U.S. Government untold amounts of time and money.

Mr. Banneker's scientific expertise was so well known in the newly formed states that his "Benjamin Banneker's Almanac," was a best-seller from 1792 to 1797.
The best work on Banneker is by Silvio A. Bedini, who was a curator a the Smithsonian:

Labels: ,

Feb 16, 2007

Librarians Discover "Treasure Trove" of Old Maps

Researchers at the John Hay Library at Brown University discovered what is described as a "treasure trove" of historic maps. The maps, some older than 400 years, range from a 1744 map drawn by Emanuel Bowen, a noted English mapmaker of his time, to a German 1936 travel map that the Nazi government issued for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

“We knew we had some significant maps but we had never cataloged them in a way that was modern and up to date,” Sam Streit, associate university librarian for scholarly resources told the Providence Journal. The Journal reports that the university has undertaken a project to allow researchers to view the maps on the Internet.

Some of the maps will be exhibited to the public. The exhibit is scheduled at the Hay Library from March 26 to April 25. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The exhibit will be free and open to the public.

The maps vary greatly in age and subject matter. Many depict the City of Providence, a city founded in 1636. Others were prepared by the New England abolitionist movement before the Civil War. The Nazi-era maps, drawn to promote tourism at the Olympics, display colorful figures depicting “happy Aryan people”.

The 1744 Bowen map portrays Sir Francis Drake as the first man to circumnavigate the globe, while an 1840s-era map made by British cartographer Edward A. Wallis depicts the haughty disdain Britain exhibited to its former colony, the United States.

There are also maps showing routes to the California gold rush of the 1840s and the Alaskan gold rush of the 1890s, as well as an exhaustive collection of Rhode Island maps.


Feb 14, 2007

Topographic Map of Mars Released

Astronomers at the European Space Agency (ESA) have produced what they call the first "hiking map of Mars."

Using data from the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) experiment on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, scientists have produced topographic maps of the Iani Chaos region of the red planet.

The maps superimpose contours and geological feature names upon high-resolution images of Mars, taken by the (HRSC) . The ESA scientist say the maps could become a standard reference for future Martian research.

Data from the HRSC has been transformed into three-dimensional Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) of the Martian surface. The DTMs were then used to produce a series of topographic maps at different scales. Each contour lines on the maps represents 250 meters in elevation.

The results are maps similar to those produced in the United Kingdom by Ordinance Survey and in the United States by the U.S.G.S.


Making Maps the Old-Fashioned Way

The Map Room points us to a KVOA-TV story about a modern-day cartographer, Alex DiNatale who has taken up the "hobby" of drawing maps by hand.
DiNatale draws maps, by hand, in the style of surveyors of the late 1800s. And his first effort was to create a map of Flagstaff and surrounding area for the period of about 1878 to 1912.

"This is like a lost art," DiNatale said. "It's relaxing and stuff that's been in my head 10 to 15 years."
"I was kind of bored and started doing this during the holidays and found it fun," he said. By referring to old township surveys from the time period, U.S. Forest Service maps and maps made by the precursor to the BLM, DiNatale pieced together what the Peaks and surrounding area looked like near the turn of the century. He also referred to old maps and township surveys from other communities to familiarize himself with what cartographers in the late 1800s did when drawing the maps.
Of course computer-aided-drafting programs have made drafting much quicker and easier, especially revisions. But I agree with Mr. DiNatale, modern maps just don't have the personality of the old ones prepared by hand.

Via The Map Room.


Feb 11, 2007

Cyber Sleuths Comb Maps for Mysteries

The Los Angeles Times recently did a story on the "office-chair detectives" that scour Google Earth looking for the unknown. These cyber-detectives have made of hobby out of discovering unusual sites captured by the satellite's eye. Among there finds are airplanes in flight (among the most competitive pursuits), surfers off Malibu, mourners congregating in a Chicago cemetery, a Boston Red Sox game underway at Fenway Park, a cement truck overturned in San Francisco.

The article focuses on the efforts of a German physics student to identify a small line of smoke off the coast off the coast of Iceland. After a lot of detective work by members of the Google Earth Community Bulletin Board, it was discovered that the smoke was indeed an ship on fire and that the one-man crew was rescued.

The Times' article can be found here, and includes some links to some of the more interesting finds.


Feb 10, 2007

Ancient Holy Land Maps Posted Online

More than 250 rare maps and antique prints of Jerusalem and the surrounding area have been posted online. The impressive collection, which dates to 1462, was assembled by Eran Laor, and donated to the Jewish National and University Library in 1975. The library has posted high resolutions images on its website enabling study by anyone.

Most of the early maps are oriented to the east, reflecting the view point of European mapmakers looking in the direction of the Holy Land. It wasn't until the Renaissance that cartographers began drawing maps oriented to the north. Reviewing the collection, one can see a change toward the end of the 18th century as maps began replacing pictorial elements with symbols and legends.

The introduction of surveying at the beginning of the 19th century produced much more accurate maps of the area. Jacotin, a cartographer who accompanied Napoleon on his journey to Egypt and Palestine, was the first to produce maps based upon scientific measurements. Other notable cartographers of the era whose maps are included in the exhibit include Robinson, Kiepert and Van de Velde.

Posting the maps online is part of the David and Fela Shapell Family Digitization Project at the Hebrew University. The site is easily navigable and provides several different search criteria, as well as options for viewing high or low resolution images. It should be an invaluable asset to researchers, or anyone who appreciates ancient maps.

Some information for this post from an article in the Jerasulem Post.
You can view the maps here.


GPS Sneakers: Gadget or Genius?

My newsreader was overflowing this morning with news about the GPS sneakers being touted by Quantum Satellite Technology. Retailing anywhere form $325 to $350 for adult sizes, the sneakers are not cheap.

According the story on the AP, they promises to locate the wearer anywhere in the world with the press of a button. The shoes appear to be aimed primarily to ease the fears of worried parents. Children's sizes will be out this summer. In addition to the hefty price tag, wearers must subscribe to a 24-hour monitoring service that runs $19.95 a month.

While there's tons of GPS-enabled navigation devices available, the firm argues that unlike cellphones, watches and bracelets, shoes are hard to lose. Obviously, they never met my kids. You can expect the predictable cries about "Big Brother" tracking us from the usual groups any minute now.

Privacy concerns aside, I can't see GPS shoes attracting many sales, even among parents. For teens, athletic shoes are first and foremost, a fashion statement. What kid wants to go to school and have the other kids find out his parents can track his movements with his shoes? Second, while athletic shoes are part of the standard teen uniform, there are places they are not worn. I may rest easy knowing my kids are wearing GPS shoes, but their mother would never let them wear them to the prom, or to church.

My view is that these GPS sneakers are a novelty that won't last for the long term.

Labels: ,

Historic Map Exhibit Runs Through June 30

The State Historical Society of Missouri recently opened a new exhibit depicting the history of the region in maps in its main gallery. "The Stories They Tell: Understanding Missouri History through Maps" is a collection of thirty maps dating from 1822 to 2002 and was organized by Walter Schroeder, associate professor emeritus of geography at Missouri University.

Among the maps on display are an 1895 map of Sedalia, Missouri depicting a state capitol building in the southwest part of town as part of an effort to relocate the state capitol to the town. While the effort to relocate the state capitol failed, the town's ambitions remain memorialized in a map.

The exhibit also features a map (shown at upper right) of the harbor of St. Louis during the 1830s. That map was drawn by a 30-year-old Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant. The cartographer, Robert E. Lee, would later serve as commander of the Confederate Army.

The exhibit runs through June 30 at the society's headquarters in the Elmer Ellis Library on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Feb 9, 2007

Citing Rising Demand for 3-D Maps, Firm Adds Plane

In an effort to keep pace with demand for its 3-D elevation maps, Intermap Technologies Corp. announced the acquisition of a fifth plane equipped with its Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar airborne data collection system. The firm is currently preparing highly-accurate 3D digital elevation maps of the entire United States for its NEXTMap® program. So far, Intermap has completed maps of California, Florida, Hawaii, and Mississippi. The firm plans to have the entire U.S. mapped by the end of 2008.

The new plane will operate in the United States and is capable of collecting approximately 1,600,000 sq. km. (618,000 sq. mi.) of 3D digital elevation data per year. Intermap says that demand for NEXTMap® data is growing. The firm cites a variety of uses, such as geographical information systems (GIS), engineering planning, transportation, automotive, navigation, and others as the primary as the main drivers of the increased demand.

Based in Denver, Intermap employs more than 360 people among its six offices worldwide.

See also:
Firms Team Up To Develop 3-D Map Of Germany
Firm Completes 3-D Map Of California

Labels: ,

Feb 8, 2007

Free Maps for Your Cellphone

Finnish cell phone maker Nokia announced today that it is making its smart2go mapping and navigation platform available for free. Smart2go provides mapping and routing in over 150 countries and includes support for full turn-by-turn satellite navigation in over 30 countries.

Users can view where they are on a map, search for points-of-interests and create routes to get there free of charge. The firm says the mapping application will be available for free download beginning Saturday, February 10th.

Initially the mapping software will be available for selected Nokia S60 and Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. The firm says it plans to roll out support for most of the major mobile operating system platforms, including Nokia S60, Series 40, PocketPC, Linux and other Windows Mobile devices. The mapping and navigation application will come pre-installed on all future Nokia Nseries multimedia devices under the name "Nokia Maps".

As the world's largest manufacturer of cellphones, one wonders what effect Nokia's giving away its mapping and navigation applications will have on GPS manufacturers such as TomTom and Garmin.

See also:
Continued Growth in GPS Forecast
Mapping Firms Tout New Handheld Applications in Vegas
GPS Everywhere

Labels: ,

Feb 7, 2007

Rennovated Home to be Demolished After Map Error Discovered

After hearing about plans for revitalizing Charles Street, Boldon Colliery, Julian Fernandes decided to purchase a home there. Plans for the revitalization called for some homes along Charles Street to be demolished, so before paying £70,000 ($137,578 U.S.) for the house at Number 94, Mr. Fernandes told the Shields Gazette he checked the town's maps and even called the council to make sure Number 94 wasn't slated for demolition.

The maps were wrong.

After spending £15,000 ($29,481 U.S.)fixing up his new home, Mr. Fernandes received a letter saying that in fact his home was to be torn down. Maps had mistakenly placed his home on the opposite side of the street. The South Tyneside Council has apologized. A spokesman told the Gazette, "Unfortunately, the map used to draw up redevelopment plans was inaccurate and showed the address of Mr Fernandes' property to be in a block that will not be affected." The spokesman said they will reimburse Mr. Fernandes for his costs.

Geocaching: Treasure Hunt or Terror Hoax?

If you're not familiar with geocaching, pronounced "geo-cashing". It's basically a treasure hunt using a handheld GPS device. Participants use their GPS unit to find a hidden cache, typically a small box with a trinket inside as a prize. The person who hides the cache posts the coordinates on a website and the searchers log in and note that they found it successfully.

Sounds like harmless fun. Not so, says the Portsmouth New Hampshire police. According to the Portsmouth Herald the department is sending out a message against the high-tech treasure hunts after two reports of suspicious packages turned out to be prizes left for geocachers.

Most recently, police were called to a supermarket to examine a suspicious package. The case, which had been duct-taped to an electrical panel was not a bomb, it was just a treasure left for geocachers to find. Police warn that attaching packages to to private property, causes public alarm and can be punished as trespassing, disorderly conduct or worse.

More info:
Modern day treasure hunting with a twist.

Labels: ,

Feb 5, 2007

China Launches 4th Navigation Satellite in Effort to Compete With U.S., Europe

In what is being interpreted as a challenge to U.S. and European satellite navigation efforts, China launched its fourth navigation satellite over the weekend the Financial Times reported today:
The successful launch on Saturday of the “Beidou” navigation satellite, on board a Long March 3A rocket, underscores Beijing’s determination to develop its space industry.

China’s plans for its satellite navigation system – known in English as “Compass” – have been shrouded in secrecy, with officials repeatedly declining to comment on their intentions. However, Saturday’s launch appears to be an effort to augment a relatively imprecise system based on three Beidou satellites launched between 2000 and 2003.

In a rare public discussion of Beijing’s plans, the official Xinhua news agency said in November that two geostationary satellites would be launched early this year, allowing the system to cover all of China and parts of neighbouring countries by 2008.

Xinhua had previously reported that the Beidou system would eventually expand to offer global coverage with a constellation of 30 medium earth orbit satellites. However, no timetable has been given for the expansion.

While China is a partner in Europe's Galileo project, many analyst see Beidou’s development as a challenge to the commercial success of Galileo. Operation of Galileo, which has plans for 30 satellites as well, has been postponed until 2011 because of technical problems and other delays.

Currently, the United States is the only country with a fully operational global positioning system. Russia has also launched some navigation satellites, though its system is not yet fully operational.

See also:
Commerce Dept. Announces Plans For GPS Upgrade
Report: GLONASS Could Be Operating By 2009
Europe's First GPS Satellite Launch A Success
World Prepares To Challenge U.S. Dominance In GPS


Feb 3, 2007

Citing Terroism, Corps Continues Restrictions on Flood Maps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to continue restrictions on maps detailing areas that would flood in the event of failure of the troubled Wolf Creek Dam The Courier-Journal reported. The corps had previously promised to make the maps widely available to the public by last Wednesday (01/31/07).

The 69 maps, each 24"x36", depict areas in Kentucky and Tennessee that would be flooded should the dam fail. Concerned the leaking dam might fail, the corps recently conducted an emergency release of water, significantly lowering the lake level and pressure on the dam. A catastrophic dam failure would cause more than $3 billion in damage and could kill as many as 237 people the corps has said. Wolf Creek Dam holds back the largest reservoir east of the Mississippi.

Copies of the maps had been sought by various news organizations which wanted to publish them in both their print and online editions. Citing terrorism concerns, the corps only allows the public to view the maps at their Nashville, TN, office. The taking of photos or other copies are not allowed. The corps says it plans to make the maps available to selected libraries in the flood-threatened area. However, the libraries will be required to sign an agreement stating that they won't allow the public to take photos or otherwise copy the maps.

The Courier-Journal has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for copies of the maps. However, the corps stated that they would only comply with the request if the paper agreed not to publish the maps.

Labels: ,

Feb 2, 2007

Flood Map Modernization Elevations Inadequate; New Map Using Lidar Proposed

The Flood Map Modernization program currently being undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has inadequate elevation information to map the shape of the land surface in three dimensions, a committee of the National Research Council reported. Such information is critical in determining the likely direction, velocity, and depth of flood flows. The committee found that most of the publicly available elevation data for the U.S. is more than 35 years old.

The committee called for a new elevation mapping program, which it named Elevation for the Nation. This new mapping program should employ light detection and ranging (Lidar) to acquire elevation data it was recommended. Lidar projects short laser pulses of light from a low-flying aircraft and measures the time it takes for the light to bounce back from the surface. The committee found that Lidar is the only technology to produce elevation data accurate enough to meet FEMA's elevation accuracy requirements.

Congress requested the report because of concerns that underlying base map information currently available for much of the nation is not adequate to support the new digital maps being prepared by FEMA. The committee's report found that there is sufficient two-dimensional imagery available from digital "orthophotos" -- aerial and satellite photographs -- to meet FEMA's standards for mapping landmarks such as streams, roads, and buildings that show the context necessary for mapping flood hazard areas.

While the costs for the Lidar mapping program would be significant, the report emphasized that a seamless nationwide elevation dataset would have many applications beyond FEMA's flood insurance maps. The proposed program should first focus on those areas of the country where flood risk to the population justifies collecting new data, the committee said.

You can read the committee's complete report here.

See also: FEMA's Flood Map Modernization Under Fire and FEMA Flood Map Modernization: A Plan For Local GIS Cooperation.

Photo courtesy FEMA.

Labels: ,

Feb 1, 2007

When Disaster Strikes, GIS is a Key Tool

Canada's Globe and Mail had a story yesterday on the work of MapAction, a British volunteer organization that uses satellite maps and geographic information system (GIS) software to assist in humanitarian relief efforts.

Most recently, the group helped relief efforts during severe flooding in Kenya. MapAction volunteers assisted workers and the Kenyan government in identifying the worst-hit areas and moving resources quickly to where they were needed most.

More from the Globe and Mail:
More and more, relief groups and rescue organizations are turning to satellite-based mapping that can give them a bird's-eye view of a disaster area. GIS software can provide such life-saving information as which way winds are blowing a forest fire, a way of identifying and contacting people who live in an affected area and where food and shelter are available.
During record flooding in Alberta in 2005, for example, Emergency Management Alberta relied on a GeoExplorer system from Telus Geomatics, a unit of Burnaby, B.C.-based Telus Corp., to manage relief efforts. Rick Brown, acting executive director of the provincial agency, says EMA superimposed more than 375 layers of data on maps of the province that showed current weather conditions, the latest information on homes evacuated as well as the location of roads, waterways, oil and gas wells, residences and other infrastructure.

Before GIS, the agency relied on paper maps tacked up on walls and people in the field calling in information. Numbers written on maps would correspond to notes on separate situation boards, a process that proved to be slow and cumbersome.

You can view some of MapAction's Kenyan flood maps here.
See also: Geocoding Saves Lives After Katrina.


U.S., Canada, Join Forces to Map Land Cover

The U.S. Geological Survey and Natural Resources Canada have joined forces to launch a high-tech satellite mapping initiative to better monitor changes in the land cover of the two nations.

The joint mapping effort will use infrared, radar relief and other remote sensing techniques, to produce integrated information that will help natural resource managers to assess the health of landscapes, the risks of wildfires, changes in biodiversity and the effects of climate change on permafrost.

The agreement involves a dynamic land-cover monitoring system for all of North America and the development of permafrost modeling applications. Future plans call for the development of radar applications.

The land-cover mapping initiative will be useful to both countries, as well as the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. One of the first efforts will be the mapping of the Yukon River Basin to study the permafrost. The joint permafrost mapping will focus on assessing the impacts of climate change on human settlements, physical infrastructure, and ecosystems in both countries.

One key benefit cited to the unified land-cover mapping effort is in monitoring wildfire risk across the border. "Natural processes like wildland fires do not stop at the border, so this type of information is critical for identifying land-cover trends,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said.

In announcing the new effort, the Honourable Gary Lunn, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources noted that the two countries have a long history of cooperation and stated, “Working together, this partnership will allow us to share information and maximize our scientific knowledge so that we can better monitor the changes of our land, including the permafrost areas in the North.”

Photo courtesy National Resources Canada.

Labels: , ,