Posts Tagged ‘maps’

Sea level rising…

Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle offered an article discussing the release of a new report by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, evaluating the effects on the California coastline of a rise in sea level resulting from global climate change. A Huffington Post article also discussed the report, which was commissioned by the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Transportation, and the California Ocean Protection Council.

The report projects an expected rise of 1.4 meters — just under 5 feet — in the mean sea level. There is a lot of variation in the estimates that have been produced in studies over the last decade, but the most generally accepted estimate I have seen is 6 meters (20 feet) by the end of the century, or even more. So the Pacific Institute’s report might in fact be underestimating the impact of global climate change and rising sea levels.

In addition to flooding wast areas of low-lying land, displacing people, and threatening infrastructure, the rising waters would also cause significant erosion to bluffs along the coast. In Humboldt, even under the 1.4 meter scenario, large chunks of places like Fields Landing, Freshwater, the Arcata Bottoms, etc. would be submerged.

One area not studied in the report, however, is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area. To have an idea of the results of various scenarios, you can consult the Pacific Institute’s report and interactive maps, and compare them to the interactive maps obtained from another projection by a British team, the Global Warming Flood Maps created by Alex Tingle (who turns out to be a friend of a friend — it’s a small world!) Even under the smallest increment (1 meter), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta becomes a shallow interior sea.

Incidentally, both these map projection systems use Google Maps/Google Earth as their backbone. Which segues into the other piece of weird map-related California news yesterday…

Blur the map!

C|NET and CNN report that California Assemblyman Joel Anderson wants online maps and aerial photos to be blurred. The bill he introduced, AB 255 “Internet security: virtual globe technology”, includes the following provisions:

“(a)An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide aerial or satellite photographs or imagery of a building or facility in this state that is identified on the Internet Web site by the operator as a school or place of worship, or a government or medical building or facility, unless those photographs or images have been blurred.

“(b)An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide street view photographs or images of the buildings and facilities described in subdivision (a).”

Security is the reason offered. However, I have news for Assemblyman Anderson: you can get that kind of information anyway, just with a the inconvenience of going to the library or purchasing from a mapping service. No terrorist would be stopped by this measure, but it would cause considerable annoyance for those of us who use such maps daily for work. Guess what, when I prepare an environmental impact assessment, I need to know where these facilities are. But Assemblyman Anderson doesn’t appear to know that people actually work with maps and air photos. Here is a quote from the C|NET interview:

Q: But could not a terrorist just as easily plan out their attacks by using a map of a city like Mumbai? They don’t need to go up online to locate their targets.
Anderson: The level of detail is not on the maps. With a map, you cant count the number of bricks in a building, or see the elevator shafts. With this level of detail (afforded by online maps,) you can. I hear the argument that, “Yeah, I want to also ban cars because cars are used in robberies.” Look, cars have other commercial uses. There are no other uses for knowing on a map where there are air shafts. These are all red herring arguments. The fact is that I would be remiss in my job if I didn’t take this seriously. I’m not interested in censoring Google or the others, but now that we know there’s a threat, how could we not address this?

He’s grossly misstating the situation, of course. I don’t generally care about air shafts — but I might if I was working on an air quality project, modelling plumes of contaminants. And I care about a lot of equally specific details. I can charge my clients the professional rate for a team to go in the field and survey a large number of details; I can wave my hands, make a lot of assumptions about locations and hope the margin of error isn’t too great; or I can get online and take ten minutes to retrieve all the information I need. Which serves my clients better?

Services affected would include, for example, Google Maps, Google Earth, TopoZone, TerraServer, and presumably government sites like USGS’ EarthExplorer and NASA’s World Wind, as well as all the mapping applications derived from these sources.


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Squint/Opera, a film and media production studio in London, recently created a series of five images called “2090: London After the Flood.” The series, which has been discussed in Dezeen online design magazine and the Environmental Graffiti news blog, is on show at Medcalf Gallery in Clerkenwell, London from June 20 to this Sunday during the London Festival of Architecture.

Another interesting view of a post-Ice Cap Meltdown world is provided by the Global Warming Flood Maps created by Alex Tingle using Google Maps (and some mad skillz), also in England. There must be something about living on an island and watching the water rise… Anyhow, this site allows you to select a location on the world map and an increment of mean sea level increase, then watch what happens to the coast line when the water rises.

Hint: the shallower the incline along the coast line, the greater the visual effect as the sea fills in your city. It’s actually not as bad as that in Seattle, which has a fairly abrupt rise from the water’s edge. The Interbay area would be flooded, but Downtown would stay pretty dry. For a fun view, watch what happens to the San Francisco Bay area and especially the East Bay at a default depth of 7m…

And in case you’re not sure you should be buying a bathing suit (and a parka, just in case) to welcome the new coastline and the new climate, go check out what NOAA and NASA have to say about the mess we’ve created.  It’s going to be no end of fun.

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