Archive for July, 2013

Analysing storm tracks

July 29, 2013 Leave a comment

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) maintains a series of energy infrastructure maps that track weather systems with the potential to disrupt energy infrastructures (storage facilities, processing plants, offshore platforms and so on). The maps, based on data from a variety of government organisations including the Depts. of Transportation, Commerce and the Interior and a number of external sources, track the location of hurricanes and other significant storms in real-time. The EIA site also maintains a number of historical reports dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Tracking Hurricane Sandy

Tracking Hurricane Sandy

The maps are available to download in a variety of image formats and an inventory of the source data sets is also provided.

For anyone interested in learning more about how to access, download and analyse hurricane data, have a look at one of the exercises that accompanies The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data. Exercise 5 describes some of the online resources for shoreline, oil and gas infrastructure, hydrography, imagery and hazardous waste sites data, along with tracking information for Hurricane Rita. The exercise focuses on assessing the impact of hurricanes along the south coast of the US state of Texas, and the effect on both the natural and man-made environments.

COBWEB: Gathering crowd-sourced environmental data in Europe

July 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The advent of crowd-sourcing and volunteered geographic information (VGI), facilitated by easy access to relatively cheap, GPS-enabled devices and cloud-based mapping services, have transformed our ability to record and respond to natural and man-made hazards and emergencies. VGI can provide an invaluable local commentary on rapidly changing situations that would otherwise be bereft of real-time, detailed observation.

This VGI resource is also increasingly valued in the documentation of more insidious regional and global phenomenon such as climate change. The high cost of traditional scientific data capture and the lack of a consistent, regional overview prompted a re-think of how such information should be captured. The pan-European research Citizen Observatory Web (COBWEB) project, launched at the end of 2012 and due to be released in 2016, aims to develop an observation framework to support the collection of crowd-sourced environmental data throughout Europe. The emerging COBWEB infrastructure is set to be trialled in study areas that come under the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere reserves (WNBR). The COBWEB consortium (made up of 13 European organisations) hopes the motivation to retain the unique characteristics of the biosphere reserves will encourage local citizens to become involved in monitoring the local environment.

To address some of the inherent problems with VGI – data quality, interoperability and validation – COBWEB will integrate the crowd-sourced observations with authoritative reference data published by public authorities under the INSPIRE directive, from compliant spatial data infrastructures (SDI) and the Global Earth Organisation System of Sensors (GEOSS). If these  integrated data sources are accepted as a reliable source of information to support further research and as a basis for policy making, this will be significant a achievement for COBWEB. Another major challenge for the project is to develop a workable accessibility framework for the data sources, which will combine publicly available crowd-sourced data with information from more restricted sources.

GitHub, geoJSON and geodata

July 1, 2013 1 comment

In addition to hosting open source code and supporting documentation, GitHub has recently announced support for rendering geographic data encoded in geoJSON, an open format for encoding geographic data that is supported by a number of popular mapping applications. This means any .geojson file stored in a GitHub repository will be rendered automatically as ‘…an interactive, browsable map‘ with the base mapping provided by OpenStreetMap. Topologically structured data are supported via the TopoJSON format. GitHub have also provided a javascript template to allow users to embed the data in their own javascript-enabled HTML pages.

Visualising geodata in GitHub

Visualising geodata in GitHub

Although many of the .geojson files currently hosted seem largely experimental, GitHub could develop into a useful spatial data resource and one to remember when searching online for open data.