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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 »

FedGIS 2016 Summit: Earth Science as it is Today

March 10th, 2016 by Susan Smith

At Esri Federal GIS two weeks ago, there were a number of three-hour presentations called “Summits” that focused on particular areas of expertise and featured many federal agency experts.

IMG_4719I sat in on the Earth Science Immersion Summit. The speakers for this event were as follows: Amy Luers, White House OSTP, Adrienne Allegretti, Blue Raster, Ruth Kroeger, GSA, Susan Minnemeyer, WRI, Brett Rose, Esri and moderator, Kelly Rose, Department of Energy NETL, Kari Sheets, NOAA Weather Service, and Lori Zeller, EPA

According to Amy Luers, this year climate risk was big. 90% of disasters around the globe were climate caused.

The COP21 conference held in Paris in December 2015 captured climate risk head-on, with acknowledgement by almost 200 nations that we need to have global goals of sustainable development.

“I’m a scientist and see that it has helped us document the trends,” said Luers. “Scientists help us understand the change, and feedback processes leading to change and impacting the change. Forecasting the change helps us look at why the trends are so important.”

Scientists play an important role in this area and in the communication of science. GIS and IT tools are really important in this space.

Climate data visualization is supposed to be an animation to engage people in changing climate.

There has been a very dramatic rise in climate data in the past ten years. Luers talked about how to effectively engage the public in this dramatic change, and how it is difficult to communicate effectively.


Temperature changes are not uniform geographically across the globe. Precipitation changes are also not uniform across globe, as are sea temperatures. There is also a need to understand local increased heatwaves.

Managing climate change in the era of big data requires certain skills so we can use information tools. Data and the Obama administration are committed to the transparency of climate data.

Kari Sheets of the NOAA National Weather Service spoke on the topic, “Weather Ready Nation: Building Resilient Communities.”

“If you’re a city planner, are you encouraging people to have an information box?” asked Sheets. “There is an ambassador program that, as an organization, gives you get a box ready with flashlight, etc.”

The Integrated Dissemination Program (IDP) is an effort to consolidate infrastructure to get data out to citizens.

Almost all the demands on NOAA are weather related, and the only thing that wasn’t was the Deepwater Horizon. “Even then the officers were asking about the weather, as it would relate to whether people could wear Hazmat suits and engage in cleanup.”

Brett Rose, of Esri, spoke on smart ways to serve up data. Democratizing data, making it accessible to the masses, is the best way, and by creating services, he said.

“Keep your data open through open standards, open data formats, open system,” Rose said. “Make sure people know the standard being used so they can do analysis and visualization.”

Matt Tisdale, of NASA and Booz Hamilton, talked about the number of satellites that go up daily, and that number is rising. Hierarchical data format (HDF) is very complex to serve this data out, with the example of 4.1 petabytes of data, that is over 58 million files.

“We’ve had a lot of users coming to us trying to load data into their database,” said Tisdale. “We were trying one-off solutions but it was time consuming. Now we do data recipes supporting multiple data formats. We developed a proof-of-concept to see what data we had, currently leveraging the entire ArcGIS platform. We are doing this with web services, which have spelled out many recommendations for use across the standards community.”

Not all data was loading as we expected, said Tisdale, and some times it is not reading the geospatial reference. “We haven’t reprocessed some data.”

Could the science team do more with this data? Tisdale believes so. Story maps make it easy to integrate data from different sources.

Kelly Rose, of the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, noted that their focus included power plants and how they interact with the atmosphere, offshore hydrocarbons, and carbon storage.

The DOE is focusing on creating a suite of tools for energy geodata science, and understanding technology gaps, evaluating the range of potential environmental, social and economic variables.

The foundation for any kind of spatial analysis is a large volume of data, said Rose. “We have run into the challenge in our own research, in particular we have done a lot of analyses of the state of Oklahoma, where there are thousands of wells, seismic data, injection, hydraulic fracturing, etc.  All of these have different file formats, some non-spatial but relevant to the projects.”

After Deepwater Horizon, they could track the water in the sea column. Blossom is a 4D comprehensive modeling suite for blowout and spill events developed in 2011 after Deepwater. “(Disasters like Deepwater) don’t happen every day, but hurricanes happen frequently,” said Rose. “Blossom allows for this analysis. Black is representative of particulate of oil in this analysis and gives a visual way of representing the 3D nature of the system.”

“We use Blossom to answer science based questions,” explained Rose. “Most of the oil ended up on the seafloor. We can look at what has been impacted. This is important for regulators as they need to assess permanence. They need to know how to respond to a disaster like this.”

CSIL allows the model to determine where multiple things in the model may relate to other items simultaneously. For human stimulated earthquakes, they can see where the riskiest area is spatially.

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Categories: 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), 3D Cities, 3D PDF, airports, analytics, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Earth, ArcGIS Online, Big Data, citizen science, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, crowd source, data, developers, disaster relief, drones, emergency response, Esri, field GIS, geocoding, geoinformatics, GEOINT, geomatics, geospatial, GIS, Google, handhelds, lidar, location based sensor fusion, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, NASA, NGA, OGC, Open Source, OpenGeo, photogrammetry, remote sensing, resilient cities, satellite imagery, sensors, spatial data, storm surge, survey, telecommunications, transportation, UAS, UAV, UAVs, USGS, utilities, wireless networks

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