August 03, 2009
GIS and Policy Making as it Pertains to Climate Change
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

GIS and Policy Making as it Pertains to Climate Change

By Susan Smith

With the finger of blame pointed at fossil fuels as responsible for 43 percent of the world’s energy consumption, climate change has become a force to be reckoned with. All other possible means of obtaining energy, while growing, pale in comparison; at the same time, the burning of fossil fuels accounts for approximately 80 percent of the world’s human induced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Global energy consumption has risen 56 percent since 1973, giving rise to an entire range of options for decision makers to consider whether they be local, state, regional, national or international entities. Global climate change affects everything –biodiversity, ecosystems, public health, weather, disasters, energy, water, and agriculture.

The following speakers presented a paper and panel discussion at the ESRI Conference on “GIS and Policy Making,” focusing on the issues surrounding climate change:

Dr. Jerry Johnston; Geospatial Information Officer, EPA

Jason Hyon; Chief Technologist, JPL/NASA

Dr. Gary Richards; Group Head, Land Management and Special Programmes Group, Department of Climate Change Australia

Lynne Barker; Program Director, ICLEI

Jeanne Foust, ESRI

GEO: Group on Earth Observation

Open Geospatial Consortium with in GEO

Jason Hyon of JPL noted that one of key problems with current methodology to estimate water supply is that it is empirical, based on historical measurements. “The past no longer predicts the future,” he said. “Because of climate change, forecasting skill has improved but has been declining because of climate change.”

JPL conducted two case studies: one on freshwater resource estimation, and the other on a greenhouse gas information system.

In the first one, they studied how remote sensing data can be used in taking ground measurements. They obtained the atmospheric CO2 record for Mauna Loa, which is about 2 ppm per year.

“By observing growth in CO2 we don’t know where the CO2 is sinked,” noted Hyon. “We don’t know the impact. With regard to sea level rise – how do we determine ice, with sea level rise contributed to by thermal expansion or added mass.”

There are significant changes in global warming based on different model projections. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did predictive analysis that showed the globe warming at about 0.2 degrees Centigrade per decade for the next two decades for a range of scenarios.

The JPL response was to constrain models with observations and come up with an observational weighting system by which you can determine which models are strong and which are weak.

Freshwater Resource Estimation

One important question to ask in all of this is will remote sensing data improve estimates of snow water?

Two communities that use different models to see if they can produce the airborne of snow equivalents are:

-SNOTEL, which measures snow depth at various sites, using historical correlation estimate SWE/outflow. This works well in a stable climate.

-NOAA SNODAS SWE, a Snow Data assimilation system (SNODAS) based on AVHRR

Products of these models are as follows:

- No degradation as climate changes

- Better allocation of water resources

- Save lives

- Potential cost saving

- Product built to customer specifications

- Product validated in collaboration with customer

- Cyber Infrastructure

Greenhouse Gas Information System (GHGIS)

Approximately 40 different U.S. agencies are responsible for studying greenhouse gas. However, there is a Greenhouse Gas Geographic System (GHGIS) proposed that would enforce better measurements of greenhouse gas emissions.

The GHGIS is both a concept for an operational decision support system providing actionable information for climate mitigation and adaptation policies, and a grassroots, interagency effort focused on requirements definition, gap analysis and design.

With satellite imagery researchers can detect carbon, carbon dioxide and CH4, and there are different ways to measure these. Space based carbon/ecosystem measurements offer plenty of data out there, creating a framework for collaboration, using GIS as the perfect framework.

Benefits of a National GHGIS architecture include:
  • The benefits should be mutual
  • Benefit must be quantifiable – time, cost, life – quantitative improvements one step at a time, not highest science value or the best ROI
  • Many studies are needed –
  • Validation
  • Workshops
  • Interagency funding support
  • Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)

    One challenge with CO2 is that weather patterns distribute CO2 all over the globe, so that researchers can’t tell where it will end up in the atmosphere. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) which currently orbits the earth on the NASA Aqua mission, retrieves daily concentrations of CO2 from observed infrared spectra. These daily observations of the distribution of CO2 from space offer a tool to understand how CO2 transported from surface sources travels to different locations around the globe. This mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide is retrieved from AIRS spectra and the layer in the atmosphere between 5 and 15 km above the surface is analyzed and weather pattern effects on the
    distribution of CO2 are studied.

    GEO: Group on Earth Observation (GEOSS)

    In 2002 GEO: Group on Earth Observation (of which the OGC is a member) was launched in order to coordinate efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

    Jeanne Foust of GEO said that79 countries (plus the EU) have agreed to contribute imagery and spatial data and come up with ways to use the data to support their climate change initiatives. Their goals are to build a framework in which imagery and in situ data will be available.

    Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), ten leading space-related agencies collaborating through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), its Land Surface Imaging Constellation Study
<div class='viewArticleContent'>
 Team, and its Working Group on Information System and Services (WGISS) have developed a portal that collects and distributes satellite imagery of the Earth’s land surface.

    Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), ten leading space-related agencies collaborating through the
    Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), its Land Surface Imaging Constellation Study Team, and its Working Group on Information System and Services (WGISS) have developed a
    portal that collects and distributes satellite imagery of the Earth’s land surface.

    The goals of GEOSS are to discover and find the assets that are out there and address these nine themes: disasters, health, energy, climate, water, weather, ecosystems, agriculture and biodiversity.

    Led by the Department of the Interior a data and architecture committee asked if they could build a test architecture which was built in part using open source. It is meant to be a “system of systems,” with many different kinds of portals designed to work together. GEOSS architecture is open and interoperable and utilizes the following:





    Enterprise integration



    ISO TC211 metadata standards

    ESRI’s approach to interoperability:

    Spatial ETL

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