March 10, 2008
Radar Image from TerraSAR-X Helps Bolivian Flood Relief Efforts
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Radar Image from TerraSAR-X Helps Bolivian Flood Relief Efforts

by Susan Smith


Overnight, a South American city plaza was transformed into a refugee camp for people fleeing the town's flooded outskirts. On February 13th, over 40,000 people were left homeless and 60 killed in severe flooding of the provincial capital city of Trinidad, Bolivia, located in the eastern lowlands in the province of Beni. President Evo Morales declared Bolivia's devastating floods a national disaster, and funding was made immediately available to address the disaster, which his government believes is due to global climate change.


At first, Trinidad was thought to be safe from the flooding because a raised road surrounding it served as a kind of dam. Yet it soon became evident that the road would probably not hold up against the onslaught of rain, and if breached, it could endanger the 90,000 residents of the city. UNOSAT’s Rapid Mapping, Applications and User Relations Unit was tasked with getting a satellite image of the Trinidad floods for emergency response efforts and to protect the local population.


click to enlarge [

Images courtesy of INOSAT
Based at CERN, UNOSAT is a United Nations programme that makes available to the international community satellite imagery and GIS services for dealing with disaster prevention, emergency response and humanitarian relief.


In the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, UNOSAT's website provided relief organizations with necessary information including maps and geographic data such as satellite images (Ikonos, SPOT, LANDSAT or ENVISAT), thematic maps including DEMs, environmental change analyses and land cover.


For the Bolivia floods, UNOSAT contacted Infoterra to find out about acquiring high-resolution radar imagery of the area. Mareike Doepke, communications manager for Infoterra Germany said that only 48 hours after UNOSAT had contacted Infoterra GmbH’s teams in Friedrichshafen, Infoterra delivered a processed, high-resolution radar image acquired by the new German radar satellite TerraSAR-X.


The image was acquired on February 14 and on that same day, downloaded to the ground station and processed under high priority. 48 hours after the initial request on February 15th, the image was delivered to the UNOSAT experts. Already, heavy rainfall had pummeled the road, breached it, causing flooding of the city.


According to the press release, less than another 24 hours later, UNOSAT made a preliminary flood water analysis at scale 1:20.000 publicly available through its website: a valuable source of information not only to UN institutions, but to any other organization preparing emergency relief actions in the area.


The map clearly depicts the flood waters over the affected urban extent of Trinidad. The flood water analysis was conducted with a single TerraSAR-X radar scene recorded on February 14th, enhanced by previously acquired RADARSAT-1 satellite data (8 February 2008, 5 April 2001). Reference:


Although in the time it took to acquire and process the image, the road did breach and parts of the city flooded, the image will prove enormously helpful in emergency response preparations, according to Doepke. The satellite was right there and able to collect the image the next day.


UNOSAT said TerraSAR-X was “the only radar satellite capable of properly detecting floods inside an urban setting like Trinidad.”


click to enlarge [

Images courtesy of INOSAT
“The satellite image helps them to decide which areas are affected the most, where do we expect largest problems, which roads are accessible, which roads flooded, which bridges are still there, where would be a good place to set up camp or an emergency response center where they could coordinate activities,” explained Doepke. “This map shows exactly where the water is and what has been affected and helps agencies approach the response activities in a more targeted way.”

UNOSAT generated the map from the Infoterra imagery, which they made publicly available as soon as they were ready. “Our services end either with the provision of the data as we did here because INOSAT has their own satellite imagery experts who can analyze the floodwater situation,” Doepke said, or for other organizations who don’t have their own satellite imagery experts, Infoterra will process and interpret the imagery for them.


The dramatic climatic events such as Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami and earthquakes that we have experienced in recent years are linked to global warming, according to scientists. The warming of the oceans releases more moisture into the air which in turn creates dense rainfall, and unusual climate conditions such as El Nino, which in turn plays a role in flooding, droughts and other events related to climatic change.


With more frequency, satellite imagery and geospatial information are being called upon to help in various aspects of disaster management, whether it be weather tracking, emergency response or other recovery efforts. With each disaster, whether natural or unnatural, systems of response and recovery are improved so that next time, more lives may be saved, more property remains intact, more people can remain in their homeland.


Top News of the Week


NAVTEQ, global provider of digital map data for location-based solutions and vehicle navigation, announced that it will be offering NAVTEQ map data for use with the spatial enhancements in Microsoft SQL Server 2008. NAVTEQ map data used in conjunction with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 provides the opportunity for businesses to incorporate location intelligence into decision making processes enabling the widespread deployment of geographic data and tools in both enterprise and departmental business applications.


Trimble introduced a flexible Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver for Geographic Information System (GIS) data collection and mapping-the GPS Pathfinder(R) ProXRT receiver. The receiver combines a high- performance GPS receiver with Trimble(R) H-Star(TM) technology, OmniSTAR correction capability, and optional GLONASS capability to provide various levels of positioning accuracies-from submeter to decimeter (10 centimeter) accuracy.


On February 14, 2008, California State Assemblymember Jose Solorio introduced a bill, AB1978, to amend Government Code Section 6254.9 of the California Public Records Act (CPRA). As stated in the "Computer Mapping Systems Fact Sheet" issued by his office, the bill seeks to improve the current definition of what constitutes a “computer mapping system.” In fact, the bill distorts the definition of "computer mapping system" further from reality. Moreover, if enacted, this bill would severely weaken the CPRA and reduce the public's access to its governments' records.


Acquisitions/Agreements/Alliances


Hansa Lufbild, an international Geo-consulting company based in Munster, has signed an agreement with
TerraGo Technologies to resell the Map2PDF software in Germany


The agreement, brokered by London-based agency Quarry One Eleven, will see Hansa Luftbild offer the Map2PDF suite of products to their extensive customer base.


Map2PDF software allows both ESRI and Intergraph users to write GIS data to the GeoPDF format and hence allow anyone, irrespective of knowledge or experience of spatial data, to view and update this information in a format they know and understand.


Journey Dynamics , a provider of traffic intelligence, and
ITIS Holdings Plc , a provider of vehicle data, have announced a joint partnership which will enable a new generation of traffic speed forecasting applications. Under the agreement, Journey Dynamics incorporates ITIS’ Floating Vehicle Data (FVD) into its traffic intelligence model in order to produce highly accurate traffic speed forecasting using complex analysis of historical traffic information. The partnership will allow Journey Dynamics to sell its traffic intelligence commercially.


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