GEOSPEX Custom Banner

GEOSPEX | geospatial analysis | urban planning | environmental issues

Hurricane Sandy Mapping

Over the past few years with the advent of crowdsourced data for humanitarian crisis mapping, there have been both significant performance advancements as well as numerous disaster episodes by which to ‘test’ these advancements. Platforms & organizations such as Google Crisis Response, the Ushahidi platform, Crisis Mappers Network , Havard’s Crisis Mapping and Early Warning program, Open Street Map and Frontline SMS all have made significant strides in the emerging field of crisis mapping via crowdsourced data.

[Source: Google] 

In the NY Region, Hurricane Sandy put interactive crisis mapping to the test, and some of the most relevant platforms are still up and running with data that reflects relief efforts in the areas most effected by the storm, notably regions along NJ, Brooklyn and Long Island coastal extents. A looming challenge now becomes vulnerable populations relative to insurance companies, utlities providers, mortgage holders, DOB, FEMA and the government at large. Significant questions remain: Who establishes priorities of cleanup; how is real property to be dealt with from various sharehholder perspectives; how will insurance companies organize coverage policies going forward and how will governmental agencies prioritize and distribute limited monies and materials to affected communities.

In regards to mapping and humanitarian crisis, Hurricane Sandy presents an unique situation where real property is highly organized across buildings, tax lots and blocks; and populations across census blocks, community board and various administrative and utilitiy boundaries. In short, the NY region does not present a ‘typical’ relief effort scenario where significant mapping efforts need to occur simply to establish ground conditions. Here those conditions come ‘preformed’, and who has access to information and how to best organize that information will go some way to establishing the narrative and locations of power in the months to come.

To follow is a brief roll call of sites and resources that can be utilized to situate and develop GIS related base layers and point data for relief efforts amongst community organizations long after the storm has past.

Many data resources exist within the DCP, via NYC open data. First and foremost, the LION database is critical to geocoding efforts across the boroughs as a signifcant portion of data will be tied to addresses. Less precise than tagging to the Pluto Tax Base, it will allow significant functionality over nonspatial database performance. On the human population data side,certainly the DCP’s hosting of various administrative boundaries is critical, especially linked to American FactFinder derived census data for 2010. NYC’s Open Data portal is also valuable for all available datasets for the NYC area-both nonspatial and spatial.

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

For critical buildings related data, ZOLA and PAD are rich data sources, although their performance within a GIS context requires some extra effort. It goes without saying that FEMA has a job on its hands going forward with flood mapping; in the short term the FIRM products will be important base layers for analysis relative to insurance coverage determinations. For crowdsourced mapping, the two platforms that seems to stand relevant at this late date in November include the Google Sandy platform and Occupy Sandy’s resource map for relief efforts which seems to be utilizing MapBox to overlay NOAA imagery. Unfortunately for the most damaged neighborhood’s within NYC region, the Con Ed service outage map will remain a frustrating resource.

Arguably the most valuable data product resulting from the Hurricane event is the NOAA Response Imagery tiles for affected coastal areas- the ‘post’ scenario. They are georeferenced and they are high quality, and importantly they are readily available and free. Together with ‘pre’ scenario tiles from either FEMA fused orthoimagery or the HRO USGS orthoimagery product, damage assessment can be greatly enhanced within the GIS environment without incurring excessive costs.

[Google Crisis Response Map | Sandy, 2012] 

[Occupy Sandy Relief Map] 

[NOAA Sandy Tile Viewer] 

“First Ever” Soil Atlas of Africa

[Source: Eusoils] 

The European Soil Portal recently posted an introduction to the 2013- Soil Atlas of Africa. In combination with the FEWS data portal NDVI Modis Rasters, the scale and accuracy of crop potential in Africa should be enhanced for GIS analysis at the regional and country level. In addition to the data (this is an atlas, but assuming here that data will be available upon request), the introduction portends a user-friendly overview of soils across the continent and their relationship to real-world scenarios for crop potential.

[Source: Eurosoils] 

Introductory text from the web notice:

The first ever SOIL ATLAS OF AFRICA uses striking maps, informative texts and stunning photographs to answer and explain these and other questions. Leading soil scientists from Europe and Africa have collaborated to produce this unique document. Using state of the art computer mapping techniques, the Soil Atlas of Africa shows the changing nature of soil across the continent. The Soil Atlas of Africa explains the origin and functions of soil, describes the different soil types that can be found in Africa and their relevance to both local and global issues. The atlas also discusses the principal threats to soil and the steps being taken to protect soil resources. The Soil Atlas of Africa is more than just a normal atlas. Rather, this volume presents an interpretation of an often neglected natural resource that surrounds and affects us all.The Soil Atlas of Africa is an essential reference to a non-renewable resource that is fundamental for life on this planet.

A Resilient, Resourceful Govan | Community-Based Mapping in Glasgow, Scotland

[Source: ‘Govan Together’ Map Insert, 2012] 

The second edition of the Govan Thegither community broadsheet is now published including a new full-page, fold-out community map- ‘A Resilient, Resourceful Govan’. All data collection was done in partnership with both individuals and community groups in the Govan neighborhood near the Clyde River, Glasgow, Scotland. The final broadsheet and map insert consisted of 11,000 copies distributed across Greater Govan (Govan, Linthouse, Elderpark, Sheildhall, Drumoyne, Ibrox, Kinning Park).

[Source: ‘Govan Together’ Map Insert, 2012] 

Unique components of the project included Ordnance Survey vectors overlayed to a historical raster base dating back to the 1850’s, and a completely new community location dataset for Govan. Its quickly apparent that the community based resources of Govan are distributed in patterned and clustered formats. Seeing this distribution in spatial format allows community efforts in Govan a productive tool for future planning.

[issuu width=420 height=158 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120425183052-47dd6414adde47faa1588b6dc5fa907a name=govan_thegither_v2_mapinsert username=prophetscotland tag=broadsheet unit=px v=2]

In addition to the GIS, design and print production, content and editing direction was provided in partnership with Govan and Linthouse Parish Church, Leg Up Urban Planters, Fablevision, GalGael, Center for Human Ecology, The Pearce Institute and Natural Scotland. Funding for the project was provided in part by the Govan Folk University Climate Challenge.

[Source: ‘Govan Together’ Broadsheet Publication, 2012] 

IBM – Participatory Cities

[Source: Participatory City Initiative- Parsons NYC & Columbia GSAPP] 

This past month I was invited as a guest presenter for an urban design forum and project seminar at Parsons AMT in conjunction with the IBM-City Forward Initiative. The initiative by IBM has been established to invigorate urban research utilizing geographic data via the project’s website. In my presentation, I encouraged students to use the IBM site as a guiding information source with its limitations in mind- specifically that the geographic scale of the City Forward Initiative is less about the interior dynamics of cities and more about statistical comparison outward towards other large urban centers.

[Source: IBM City Forward Initiative | Website Interface] 

During the presentation, I detailed MSA’s (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and their usefulness as well as limiations; this lead to a discussion of the principle of scale akin to the classic Eames Powers of Ten short film. Further we discussed efforts by NYC to open up its municipal GIS datasources, primarily the Open Data initiative and DoITTs ongoing essential GIS files for NYC.

[MSA’s overlayed to urban density] 

[NYC relative to its MSA] 

[Charles and Ray Eames- Still from Powers of Ten] 

Following the conference, four students projects were delivered, and I was happy to see that each project investigated new ways for qualitative and quantitative data to inform and shape urban design in NYC. Some projects were more overtly invested in geographic data, but all took seriously the notion that digital data now operates in conjunction with physical space on a daily basis in dense urban centers like NYC.

[Steam Street Panorama] 

The first project – Steam Street – looks at the historical and contemporary dimensions of Canal Street and proposes ways to both ‘sense’ the urban environment and make findings immediately public through installation- literally a ‘steam street’, talking pipes and smoking tower.

[Historical Canal Street with overlay to ‘Collect Pond’] 

Lingua Franca- BitMap is a meditation on the ‘hard’ surfaces of urban space and seeks to utilize new materials and digital data to ‘soften’ these spaces to the benefit of citizens and visitors of the city.

[A ‘softer’ urban space- Lingua Franca- BitMap] 

WeftWerk focuses its efforts towards interface design that ‘decentralizes’ data, making urban spaces more participatory, healthy and equitable.

[WeftWerk data interfaces] 

Finally, Syncing Waves imagines by turns both utopian and dystopian scenarios for citizens based on the current ascendancy of digital technology and data in cities.

[Syncing Waves- future urban data scenarios] 

Mapping Tegucigalpita, Honduras Continued….

[Source: EwB, 2012] 

This past week City College’s Engineers without Borders student chapter made the return trip from Honduras bearing a nice set of photos and news that the mapping products produced for the project were a success. By tailoring the GIS data available through the good graces of professor Ricardo Alavardo Escobar, Municipal Mayor and Alex Uriel Del Cid, Municipal Technician in Omoa, Honduras, as well as datasets collected by the project team, the project atlas and wall map series stands as a baseline tool for future planning by the town’s water board.

[Source: EwB, 2012] 

In addition to water resource planning, the mapping materials made the rounds of other decision-making boards in the town, and the large-scale wall maps are currently on display at the local school. As the town continues to expand, up-to-date GIS data is a very significant asset to decipher and plan effectively with and around ‘edge conditions’ such as abutting land use classifications, terrain and elevation, and historical waterways.

[Source: EwB, 2012] 

[Source: EwB, 2012] 

Tegucigalpita- a regional atlas

[Source: Geospex & EwB, 2011] 

In conjunction with the student chapter of Engineers without Borders at City College here in New York, water resources and general topography surrounding the chapter’s current project in Tegucigalpita, Honduras have been mapped in this regional atlas. The atlas has been constructed via new GIS datasets collected by EwB participating students in 2011, as well as state GIS resources from professor Ricardo Alavardo Escobar, Municipal Mayor and Alex Uriel Del Cid, Municipal Technician in Omoa, Honduras.

The EWB team is currently in Honduras for the second leg of the project. Current deliverables include this atlas as well as a series of tailored wall maps designed to aid community planning in the township of Tegucigalpita.

[Source: Geospex & EwB, 2011] 

[Source: Geospex & EwB, 2011] 

Project supporters include Geospex, Grant Engineering, Bentley Engineering and City College, as well as community participants in Tegucigalpita.

[Source: Geospex, EwB, Grant Engineering, Bentley Engineering & City College, NY, 2011] 

ASTER Imagery – V2 Improvements

[Source: USGS ASTER V2- New Coverage] 

The new ASTER GDEM was released in October 2011, showing significant improvements in quality over V1.  Generated from data collected from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), the results are impressive and easily accessible. The ASTER GDEM is the only DEM that covers the entire land surface of the Earth at high resolution. Its valuable for both large and small scale mapping endeavors, especially as a base layer to augment vector data.

[Source: USGS ASTER V2- New Coverage Relief] 

The V2 of ASTER features an advanced algorithm that greatly improves GDEM resolution and elevation accuracy. The global coverage has also been increased so that files available to the public show a greater percentage of ground coverage.

[Source: USGS ASTER V2- Improvements over V1] 

[Source: USGS ASTER V2- Improvements over V1] 

3D imagery options via the this new dataset are impressive; to follow are two examples provided by USGS- the Grand Canyon and the Sierras near Mt. Whitney.

[USGS ASTER V2- The Grand Canyon, AZ.] 

[USGS ASTER V2- The Sierra Near Mt. Whitney, CA.] 

Dolling out 3 Minutes of Fame- Public Comment on NY Fracking begins tonight

[Hydrofrack Field]

Tonight begins DEC’s public comment session on the draft SGEIS for hydrofracking. Hopefully the sessions will be utilized to address the actual alternatives in the document. A further interesting development is the news that townships and counties may exercise their power over local zoning to restrict fracking- an option that has the potential to turn the tables on the typical EIS process. The case in Dryden, NY is exemplary; if suits like this fail, it will be very interesting to see the repercussions at the local level.

[Source: DEC public comment schedule]

Even as advocates for/against hydrofracking in NY state cite activity right across the border in PA, the Barnett Shale expanse in Texas may portend NY’s new landscape if fracking takes hold in the Empire state. The EIA has a telling animation of the hydrofracking takover across the Barnett Shale. The graph that follows the animation screengrab further reflects industry’s preferences when given the green light to hydrofrack over traditional vertical drilling methods.

[Source: EIA] 

[Source: EIA]

[Source: EIA]

ChangeMatters- Landsat made easy

[Source: ESRI; ChangeMatters. Location: Ontario, CA]

Back in May, ESRI released a very accessible, intuitive online Landsat imagery viewer that turns out to be quite useful for the first stages of analysis; or, conversely, as a check on GIS results. ChangeMatters utilizes three adjacent image viewers; as you toggle through image capture dates, location and distance in one window, the others two windows snap-to in formation. The third viewer serves up the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) that displays increase/decrease in vegetation per location.

[Source: ESRI; ChangeMatters. Location- Las Vegas, Nevada]

This viewer is one of several that ESRI has recently launched. Its hard to detect the exact audience of these viewers; I suspect its ESRI’s way to drum up general interest as these are not really serious GIS analysis tools as much as they are topical, accessible viewers. But they are very nice as educational opportunities, and they are a decent way to gain a ‘quick take’ on land use change since 1975, an early date in the Landsat program.

As seen in the following legend, ChangMatters leaves the first two Landsat images alone, while serving the result of the NDVI calculation in the third viewer window. Breaking vegetation cover down to a Increase/Decrease binary produces some interesting results. As seen in the Las Vegas example above, what we would assume is a decrease in land use value for vegetation is actually an increase: desert sands become irrigated subdivisions. In using the viewer across different geographies, it becomes evident that it works best in cases of natural disasters- volcanoes, fires, ect. where vegetation cover changes very rapidly; or where urban and suburban sprawl quickly overtook natural landscapes, particularly during to the early 2000s housing boom.

[Source: ESRI; ChangeMatters]

[Source: ESRI; ChangeMatters. Location- Tegucigalpa, Honduras]

Scotland’s Greenspace Map – Making Square Feet & Meters Count in an Urban Environment

[Source: Scotland Greenspace]

An ongoing planning conundrum in complex urban environments with overlays of official and informal jurisdictions and boundaries is the mapping and classification of ‘greenspace’. Someone’s ‘front yard’ is really a city’s ‘greenstreet’; a longstanding community garden may or may not achieve official recognition due to the paths of administrative process; a dilapidated park bench with one lonely, smog-chocked, dying tree holds up an environmental assessment even as the proposed project will deliver acres of new greenspace.

[Source: Scotland Greenspace]

With this new project – Scotland’s Greenspace Map – much of the ‘gray area’ in land use classification for green space has been taken away and given over to an almost obsessive level of organization. Open Space is now degrees of ‘Amenity’, Riparian routes, Woodlands, Green access routes, Courts, Private Gardens- the classification even runs into secondary overlays. What’s even more impressive from the methodological standpoint is the sourcebook for the project. A detailed methodology for other cities to use to make greenspace matter – every square foot of it.

One of the benefits of the project from a GIS standpoint is the utilization of the Ordinance Survey base which possesses the detailed urban typology needed to capture so many classifications of green space lodged in crevices of concrete. This is a great mapping effort, and I’m looking forward to utilizing the methodology in future projects to give urban greenspace its deserved due.

[Source: Scotland Greenspace] 

[Source: Scotland Greenspace]