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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Greater Accuracy in Landfire Mapping Helps Battle Summer Blazes

July 5th, 2011 by Susan Smith

National Lab and surrounding communities, not to mention severe devastation to the forest. Another 10,000-acre Pacheco Canyon fire threatens our Ski Basin and Pecos Wilderness 9 miles from downtown Santa Fe.

Slope maps provide ready-to-use visual representations for terrain evaluations.

Here in New Mexico, we have a potentially 100,000-acre fire threatening Los Alamos

Today, more population lives near forest lands. Forests are not cleared as regularly so there is more combustible material available to feed fires. Available fuel and weather conditions make it possible for the fire to ignite and escalate into an uncontrollable wildland fire. Global warming contributes greatly to the frequency of fires. Knowing what landcover actually consists of helps fire officials and fighters know how to gauge the potential of a forest fire.

Essential to forest fire fighting is fire mapping. In an interview this week with Lorraine Tighe of Intermap, she talked about their datasets for forest fire mapping. One of the big areas that their datasets are used for is to calculate slope information as well as land cover information.

“If we concentrate on the US they currently work with the National LandCover Database that was generated by the USGS, the last one in 2000. This database is a 30 meter posted dataset,” said Tighe. “It’s a pretty coarse resolution data set and unfortunately if we look at the landcover there are about 17 or 18 classes that it actually classifies. It tends to underestimate shrub vegetation and underestimates rock and water, and sometimes certain forest types.” This has to do with the 30 meter pixel because within 30 meters, you can have a portion of shrub, rock and forest and maybe characterized as old forest. In fire fuel modeling, the key elements required are land cover type, whether rock, water, urban, forested, and they also like information on tree height, elevation of trees above ground, which helps them to predict biomass and then how long it’s going to burn. On the tree height side they don’t have an accurate tree height dataset. They measure different plots throughout the US tree height measurements using the landcover and apply a bias to it to predict height.

Data fusion integrates terrain data collected from multiple sources to create one seamless dataset.

At Intermap, Tighe said they have three products our technology is interfere???? Technology and it collects a digital surface model which provides some information about height of features above the ground. In addition it has an orthorectified radar image, a radar image that can give you true classification information about land cover, and because it’s orthorectified it’s been corrected for terrain distortion. “When you map something using the radar image you get a true representation of what’s on the ground,” said Tighe.

The DSM is used to produce a DTM which is a bare earth representation of the earth where elevation of features sitting above the ground like trees and vegetation and urban buildings, have been digitally removed. When you subtract the DSM which has elevation of features above the ground from the DTM you have elevation information about above ground features.

“It’s on a five meter posted elevation grid set, so instead of 30 meters it provides a much higher resolution to give you a more accurate representation of vegetation,” said Tighe. “If you take that 30 meter post we have a lot more individual measurements about the features within that 30 meters both from landcover type as well as a height type. So in the end, with a five meter posted elevation data set, the imagery is at 5.2 meters so it’s a higher resolution. We now have a better capacity to map at a higher resolution both land cover types. Water and rock are landcover types that we consider no burn zones.”

These are important for landfire mapping and firefighters want to know where they are, especially water for knowing where water is located in order to mitigate fires. With the five meter posted data set, the ability to classify shrub information gives more information than a 30 meter posted landcover data set in terms of where exactly low shrubs are and where forested areas are.

The combinations of that information helps to better predict what would happen if a fire were to break out. The higher resolution gives you better delineation between boundaries of different landcover types. “With the five meter posted data set we are able to predict and generate slope maps with higher resolution information about the slope,” said Tighe. “Terrain slope is pretty important, because on different degrees of slope you get different types of vegetation cropping, so that information, in combination with the DSM and DTM allows you to better predict landcover type.”

For a year now, Intermap has had full coverage of the US. With accurate terrain data, for example, and an orthorectified image, the data can be used during a forest fire to guide helicopters or aircraft that are trying to put out forest fires. It gives them a better sense of the terrain and because the current elevation data set that is available is a 10 meter posted elevation data set, having the higher resolution data can guide where aircraft need to go to put out fires.

“We have been working with Department of Interior prototyping our ability to better characterize land use, including those fire barriers like water and rock and other land cover types like shrub and forested areas, and also height information,” said Tighe.

“We’ve also been collaborating with forest services to use that information to better characterize percentage of forest cover across the US, so they’re currently updating,” said Tighe. The National Landcover data base is comprised of three things – urban coverage percentage, percentage of forest cover, and the national landcover types. They are in the process of updating 2000 data now and trying to complete it by 2013.  Intermap has been collaborating with them to look at the ability to use the DSM and DTM to help them get better understanding of percentage of forest cover.

For fire fuel modeling, government agencies want to have an understanding that if a forest fire broke out in a given area, they could use landcover and height to add to fire fuel parameters, as well as rainfall and temperature and wind to model predictions. It would also be helpful to determine the mitigation for the surrounding communities.

“We are also starting to work in the space of informing helicopter and aircraft pilots of position using high resolution data,” said Tighe. “Emergency response and firefighters on the ground could use the data for planning.” Intermap has had some success in Europe with this approach, using date with police agencies to plan what’s the quickest route to get to an accident and where they need to be using high resolution data. Soon, Tighe said, we will begin to see this type of information ported onto iPads.

The Department of Interior is interested in knowing where those fire free barriers are, and where there is rock and water, so they want accurate information. If they have maps with accurate information, when a fire breaks out they can have the information readily available, perhaps on a webservice.

LandFire is a program of the Department of the Interior that utilizes layers such as canopy height, landcover use (from the National LandCover database). The 11 most western states are of primary interest to the department because of their temperatures and great extent of forests there. The department has been relying on coarser resolution but now want to graduate to more accurate information. They are reviewing resources such as Intermap that can give them higher resolution information with more accurate representation of the different landcover uses as well as canopy height.

Top of the News

The merging of design and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology would revolutionise urban planning and truly open up community development to the public, Esri Australia Western Australian Business Manager Tom Gardner told the Western Australian Surveying and Spatial Information Conference in Perth today.

Delegates from government, mining, engineering and cartography organizations attended the conference to discuss opportunities for GIS technology within the urban development and resources sector.

ERDAS announces the release of new version of ECW Plug-in for ArcGIS Desktop. This free plug-in provides a means for ArcGIS for Desktop users to read files in the ECW and JP2 formats and accept ECWP streams of ECW and JP2 data originating from ERDAS APOLLO.

Esri created and released a new, comprehensive map of the world’s oceans and coastal areas. The Ocean Basemap is now available as a cached map service in ArcGIS Online. The first basemap of its kind, the Ocean Basemap is designed to support a variety of maritime GIS applications.


earthmine announced it is now an Autodesk AEC Industry Partner, along with the immediate availability of its latest addition to the earthmine desktop product suite, earthmine for AutoCAD Map 3D. As an Autodesk AEC Industry Partner, earthmine will work closely with Autodesk on product integration opportunities to bring real world data and context to the CAD environment, as well as joint marketing and consulting opportunities within the infrastructure market.

Fugro has finalized the acquisition of Sial Geosciences Consulting and Engineering Şti. in Turkey and the seismic processing business of Kelman Technologies in Canada.

Sial is a leading Turkish geotechnical consultant providing expertise to large infrastructure construction companies and government. Fugro has previously cooperated with Sial, most recently on the geotechnical and geological data acquisition for the Izmit Bay bridge. Sial will continue as Fugro Sial Sti. and is expected to expand on basis of the strong infrastructure market in Turkey.


The use of laser scanners to collect vital data for crash investigations is set to drive down the £1bn ($1.6bn) annual cost of congestion caused by collisions on UK freeways. An announcement by the UK Roads Minister Mike Penning of a £3 million fund for police forces to purchase laser scanning technology ensures Nottingham based 3D Laser Mapping will continue to lead the way having supplied one of the UK’s largest Road Death Investigation units with state of the art laser scanners.

Utilities will need Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to institutionalize’ the knowledge of their aging workforce and avoid an information vacuum.

The Australian utilities sector faces an information black hole within a decade unless it works to retain the knowledge of its ageing workforce, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist Bill Meehan told the Smart Electricity World conference in Melbourne, Australia, last week.


David Totman, former asset manager at Colorado Springs Utilities, joins Esri as the new industry solutions manager for public works. Totman replaces Chuck Cmeyla, who is retiring.

Aerial surveying company Bluesky has appointed Ian Dee to the position of Sales Executive. With more than ten year’s experience in the aerial mapping industry, Ian joins the UK based company from Bluesky’s joint venture partner Astrium, formerly Infoterra.

New Products

NICE Systems Ltd. introduced NICE Situator for public safety. The solution builds on NICE’s leading Situation Management capabilities in the security sector to help public safety operations enhance emergency preparedness, improve situational awareness and streamline incident response. NICE will demonstrate the solution in booth 1201 at the 2011 NENA Conference and Expo, June 18-23, 2011 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

TerraGo Technologies has released the TerraGo SDK (software development kit), a set of software development modules for partners and enterprises to easily and quickly integrate custom TerraGo GeoPDF and geospatial collaboration applications.

In response to the ever present need to secure sensitive geospatial data, eMap International and Par Government are pleased to announce the release of VectorLock, the first security system for shapefiles.  VectorLock is an ArcGIS 9.3 or 10 extension that enables organizations to protect geospatial data by controlling access across internal and external user communities and data sharing environments.

Intergraph Corporation, provider of computer-aided dispatch software,  announced a partnership with MIR3, Inc., the innovator of real-time Intelligent Notification and response technology that will integrate the widely used Intergraph Computer-Aided Dispatch (I/CAD) software with the SaaS-based MIR3 Intelligent Notification platform. This combination brings I/CAD users a highly flexible and extensible dispatch and notification solution using the Microsoft BizTalk-based Intergraph Interoperability Framework.

ALK Technologies announced CoPilot Live Premium, the new generation satellite navigation app for iPhone, iPad and Android-based mobile devices.

Abaco announces DbMAP 3D new release, a suite of professional applications to design, create and publish geographic content, which can be visualized in 3D thorough the web.Abaco’s achievements are the result of the great experiences both nationally and internationally. Specialized know-how supported by major research and professional development of technologies for the design, implementation and publication of Geographic Information Systems-rich 2D and 3D content integrated with the most advanced SDI – Spatial Data Infrastructure.DbMAP 3D is a powerful, complete, easy to use software suite that provides an “on-the-fly” visualization of various data sources: manifold textures (aerial and satellite imagery), vectorial data, 3D models and LiDAR data.

DeLorme, the innovation leader in navigation technology,  announced the Fall 2011 release of the DeLorme inReach, the first Iridium-based personal communicator to deliver two-way satellite text messaging and email; delivery confirmations; SOS capabilities; remote tracking, and an Android smartphone interface.

TomTom extends its global coverage by introducing the first map of Venezuela for use in its industry partners’ products and services. With the June global digital map products, TomTom is expanding its footprint in Latin America to encompass coverage of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, French Guiana, the French Overseas Territories and Venezuela. By broadening map coverage in this strategic region, TomTom is equipping industry partners with high quality content to enable location-based services.

WebMapSolutions have just released to the Blackberry App World an ArcGIS mobile application. Based on the ESRI Flex viewer, this is a free app. It is a first version of a more complete application, to be released later in the Summer. The application is called ArcGIS Viewer and can be downloaded directly from AppWorld

TerraGo Technologies will expand its TerraGo Mobile software to support Google Android and Apple iOS platforms to accommodate rapidly growing numbers of tablet and smartphone users.

SuperGeo Technologies, the leading global provider of complete GIS software and solutions, announced that its latest desktop GIS software, SuperGIS Desktop 3.1, will be released officially soon.

As the newest desktop GIS software of SuperGIS 3 series products, SuperGIS Desktop 3.1 is equipped with diverse GIS tools, considerably improves the performance in editing, displaying, analyzing and managing spatial data.

Around the Web

GISCafe Today Blog

Scanning Twice, June 17, 2011, The New York Times (registration required)

What is geo-tracking revealing about you? (week in review) June 17, 2011, CNET News

Egypt’s first GIS-enabled information portal, June 23, 2011, The Daily News

GIS Center begins process of redistricting,

Mobile devices cloud computing push new geospatial June 22, 2011,

Getting the pole positions UMN News

Smarter Utility – ikeGPS Mobile GIS Systems’ New Utility Pole Audit Solution Resolves Audit Challenges June 22, 2011, Smarter Utility

Improved Internet Access Brings Better Mapping and Spatial Data to Kenya June 22, 2011, World Resources Institute

DHS comes to first responders’ rescue June 21,2011, GCN


International Cartographic Conference 2011
Date: July 3 – 8, 2011
Place: 2 Place de la Porte Maillot
Paris , France
In 2011, France will host the 25th Conference of the International Cartographic Association, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the first General Assembly of the Organization. During these fifty years, the ICA has skilfully remained true to its two fundamental objectives, namely, to maintain its position as the benchmark international conference for cartography and geomatics, thanks to its solid and progressively updated scientific content, whilst remaining a conference which is open to a variety of participating groups: researchers, decision-makers in the field of geomatics, teachers and lovers of cartography.
GI_Forum 2011 – GI Community in Focus
Date: July 5 – 8, 2011
Place: Salzburg, Austria
The University of Salzburg Centre for Geoinformatics and the Institute for GIScience at the Austrian Academy of Sciences offer an annual forum to the worldwide geoinformatics community, bringing together English-speaking researchers and practitioners across disciplines and industries. Simultaneously, the GI_Forum connects participants into a well established co-located regional symposium –  Applied Geoinformatics (AGIT) – sharing the state-of-the art AGIT-EXPO exhibit.
Strengthen Your ArcMap GIS with ERDAS IMAGINE
Date: July 6, 2011
Place: USA
The reliability of any GIS depends on the caliber of its supporting imagery and basemap data.  ERDAS IMAGINE®, the world’s leading geospatial data authoring system, complements ArcMap by taking data quality to the next level.
The Survey Summit
Date: July 7, 2011 – July 12, 2012
Place: San Diego Convention Center
Join Esri and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) for the premier Survey Summit, shaped by you and your colleagues in the surveying and geospatial professions. Designed with a value-packed agenda, this unparalleled event will explore the newest spatial technology and business opportunities in surveying and related industries.
Survey Summit
Date: July 7 – 12, 2011
Place: San Diego
Register today for the Esri and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) July 7–12 in San Diego, California, for the premier Survey Summit, shaped by you and your colleagues in the surveying and geospatial professions.
2011 Esri Education User Conference
Date: July 9 – 12, 2011
Place: Marriott San Diego Hotel & Marina
San Diego, CA USA
The EdUC is my GIS in education THINKFEST! If you’re using GIS in education in any way or are planning to use GIS, this is the event not to miss.
2011 Esri Homeland Security GIS Summit
Date: July 9 – 12, 2011
Place: San Diego Convention Center
Hilton Bayfront, San Diego, CA USA
As mission requirements become more complex—with resources limited and public expectations high—now more than ever is the time to learn how to meet the mission and bridge these challenges with GIS.
ESRI Business GIS Summit
Date: July 10 – 11, 2011
Place: Omni San Diego Hotel
San Diego, CA USA
The conference is an excellent venue for networking with other professionals in the commercial business space.
Artie McDonough
GIS Project Manager, SNL Financial
2011 Esri International User Conference
Date: July 11 – 15, 2011
Place: San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA USA
Join us for one week in San Diego where you’ll have everything Esri at your fingertips. It’s the ultimate event for anyone working with GIS. The breadth and depth of sessions for all types of professionals, the opportunities for hands-on learning, and the many ways to cultivate skills and relationships make it a must attend.
MAPublisher training
Date: July 14 – 15, 2011
Place: San Diego, CA USA
Avenza Systems Inc., producers of MAPublisher cartographic software for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager spatial tools for Adobe Photoshop, is pleased to announce the 2011 schedule for its comprehensive 2-day MAPublisher training course. This 2-day class offers in-depth MAPublisher training that will enable MAPublisher users to maximize their use of MAPublisher and fully exploit its features and power.
14th Annual Conference Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS)
Date: July 16 – 19, 2011
Place: Northwoods Resort and Conference Center
Big Bear Lake,, CA USA
The theme for the 2011 Society for Conservation GIS Conference is “Building Strength.” We will focus on the strength and capacity of individuals, communities, and organizations to achieve conservation by 

  • Creating partnerships and support networks
  • Developing innovative applications and training
  • Improving access to resources in conservation science and planning
  • Building decision support systems
Spatial Information Day
Date: August 5, 2011
Place: Adelaide Convention Centre
Spatial Information Day (SID 2011) and the South Australian Spatial Excellence Awards (SASEA 2011) will be held on Friday 5 August 2011 at the Adelaide Convention Centre.. The full day SID 2011 program will be followed by the SASEA 2011 dinner.

Related posts:

Category: Intermap

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