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.
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.
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.
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.