Archive for September 19, 2011

MONITORING TSUNAMI UPDATES

September 19, 2011

MONITORING TSUNAMI UPDATES
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Tsunami monitoring on a global scale is now a possibility. This isn’t aimed to mitigate a tsunami that is in progress, an act that is next to impossible. Efficacious monitoring can rather make forecasts and rapid precautionary mobilizations become more effective and prudent.
Take the case of the previous Japan tsunami. A scientist based in Brazil was able to observe the phenomenon way before the tsunami hit the shores of Japan. It was just a matter of making tighter the coordination and information sharing by the observers and the forecast affected parties to effect a quicker response and avoidance of casualties and damages.
Below is an update report about global tsunami monitoring.
[Philippines, 19 September 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/global-tsunami-monitoring-could-follow-from-discovery.html
Global tsunami monitoring could follow from discovery
Henrique Kugler
18 August 2011
[CURITIBA, BRAZIL] A scientist’s chance glimpse of a reflection in the atmosphere of the tsunami that devastated Japan earlier this year could lead to the first global tsunami monitoring system — which could also be faster and more efficient than the current systems.
Researchers from Brazil, France and the United States, using a highly sensitive, wide-angle camera at the top of Haleakala volcano in Hawaii, detected the ‘airglow’ signature in the atmosphere of the 11 March tsunami that devastated Japan, demonstrating that the genesis of a tsunami leaves a fingerprint in the ionosphere — an ionised zone of the atmosphere more than 80 kilometres up.
Tsunamis usually cause the sea level to rise rapidly by a few centimetres, which displaces the air immediately above it. This creates waves in the air that move quickly upward, eventually reaching and disturbing the ionosphere. Interaction with the charged ionosphere creates a faint red glow, the signature airglow that can be detected.
This effect was predicted in the 1970s, but little progress has been made since then on using these observation methods. The researchers presented their observations in a paper in Geophysical Research Letters last month (7 July).
“We have been studying the ionosphere since 1999, but we didn’t expect to end up with a new method for tsunami detection,” Jonathan Makela, an electrical engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, and the lead author of the paper, told SciDev.Net.
Currently tsunamis are detected by monitoring the sea surface level or the pressure of the water near the seabed. While this is efficient, it is limited to areas where adequate equipment is installed — the new finding could now lead to a global remote sensing system that would not need equipment on the ground.
“A new global system could be set up,” said co-author Philippe Lognonné, from the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris, at Paris Diderot University in France. “We could detect tsunamis in zones deprived of geophysical monitoring, as well as tsunamis generated by effects other than quakes [such as volcanic eruptions and underwater landslides].”
Lognonné said that the new system would allow us to detect tsunamis well before what is possible with the current system.
With just three satellites, a world-wide tsunami forecast system would be in place. Such a system would need “about 50 kilograms of equipment onboard future telecommunications satellites,” he said.
The European Space Agency is evaluating the idea of taking a recording instrument on board one of its satellites for a demonstration mission — the instrument would cost €10 million (around US$14 million), according to Lognonné.
Makela said this system would not replace the current ones, but complement them to give a much wider monitoring capacity.
Victor Gallardo, a professor of oceanography at the University of Concepción, Chile, told SciDev.Net: “If it really works, I see advantages for a long country like Chile, where a repetitive, expensive tsunami alert system would be necessary.
“The installation of this technology in satellites should be a priority for the existing dedicated international organisations. Our scientific and engineering communities should examine this option very carefully and urgently”.
John Largier, professor of coastal oceanography at the University of California, Davis, United States, who has been working on the use of radar for tsunami detection, said that airglow was “quite an amazing phenomenon … that may have value in providing some low-cost global coverage”.
But he added: “I don’t see how it will give the detail on wave amplitude and currents that can be obtained from data on the ocean itself”.
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EQUITABLE DATA ACCESS BY GLOBAL GEOSPATIAL GROUP

September 19, 2011

EQUITABLE DATA ACCESS BY GLOBAL GEOSPATIAL GROUP

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Geospatial information can empower decision-making. Access to information, however, is as unequal as it could get across the globe.

To address the problem of inequitable access to information, diverse geospatial groups across the continents have been holding consultative talks. Incidentally, a UN agency, the Economic and Social Council or ECOSOC, had taken the role to spearhead the global talks to promote greater equitable data access.

Such an access was once the monopoly of developed countries or DCs notably the OECD countries. From climatological mapping to mineneralogy assessments, the exclusivity of access by the Northern countries was very marked. The information was then used by multinational companies and business stakeholders to corner contracts and investments in the developing countries to the dis-advantage of the latter.

Below is a summary report about the ongoing geospatial initiatives.

[Philippines, 19 September 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/global-geospatial-group-to-promote-equitable-data-access.html
Global geospatial group to promote equitable data access
Gozde Zorlu
18 August 2011
A high-level global group promoting geospatial information could help developing countries gain better access to data to help tackle issues such as climate change, conservation and disaster management.
The UN has set up an expert committee and a programme on global geospatial information management under its Economic and Social Council to encourage international cooperation and establish best practice on the use of geographic data, collected by technologies such as remote sensing and the global positioning system (GPS).
The decision, announced last month (27 July), was triggered by a report earlier this year by the UN secretary-general that concluded that many developing countries have a “serious lack of institutional capacity to harness the enormous potential of geospatial information technologies and to build a sustainable national infrastructure”.
There have been several efforts to manage such information, including the Permanent Committee for Geospatial Data Infrastructure of the Americas (PC-IDEA) and the Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP).
“But these discussions have been regional in focus,” said Paul Cheung, director of the new initiative and head of the UN’s statistics division in New York.
“There is a need for a global platform, for all countries to come together and focus on all of the issues. That is why we have created this committee,” he told SciDev.Net.
A key task will be to standardise geospatial information and applications to enable the sharing of data and services across borders.
According to Cheung, geospatial data is increasingly owned by multinational corporations, which sell software and platforms to developing countries that may not have the capacity to know what the best products are or how best to use them. The new committee could help represent developing countries and advise them on building up their national institutions.
“Spatial information and analysis lie at the heart of nearly all major international peace, global health and economic development problems,” Mark Becker, a geospatial applications expert at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, United States, told SciDev.Net.
“Having a central committee focused on setting standards for accuracy of data and guidelines for the fair redistribution of data is essential,” he said.
Becker added that the new committee could increase the efficient use of spatial information in projects for developing countries, such as managing refugee centres and immunisation programmes.
“If you can easily discover and download data that is critical for your operations and not have to create it yourself you have increased your efficiency,” he said.
Geospatial information can empower decision-making on “extremely important” concerns in developing countries, such as development and environmental conservation, said Susan Wolfinbarger, from the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Given the rapid development of technologies such as remote sensing, mapping and GPS, a group of experts on geographic technology is essential to help develop standards for data quality, cooperation and use of geospatial information,” Wolfinbarger added.
The first UN high-level forum on geospatial information management is scheduled to take place in Seoul, Korea, in October to bring together countries, international organisations and the private sector.
“But at the end of the day, it is governments that will have to decide on issues,” said Cheung.
Link to UN secretary-general’s ‘Global geospatial information management’ report [217kB]
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