In the wake of a major natural disaster, such as the earthquake that befell Japan on March 11, 2011, one of the main consolations we can take is knowing that humans will learn from what has happened, and apply that understanding to future disaster-prevention efforts. With this in mind, Cybera's Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Sensing (GeoCENS) project today released a demonstration of its geo-mapping capabilities that focuses on one of the Japanese areas worst-hit by the earthquake and resulting tsunami — Sendai.
Through GeoCENS' interactive web portal, viewers can see before and after images of the coastline town hit by the tsunami, using an overlay of satellite images and maps. Data on the flooded zones, fluctuating water levels and soil differentiations can also be accessed and analyzed.
Such an effective and immediate analytical system demonstrates the importance of open data standards, notes the Principal Investigator for GeoCENS, Dr. Steve Liang. "An open standard-based approach really shows its value in time-critical applications, such as emergency response," says Liang.
"Because GeoCENS is built with open data standards, we are able to connect to various data sources to establish a Common Operation Picture (COP) of a coherent environment. In a non-standard-based approach, users need to visit many different sites to visualize data in different formats, which makes it nearly impossible for first responders to establish a COP."
The ability to study, share and analzye this kind of critical information has the potential to inform future policies and designs of ocean barriers and earthquake-resistant buildings, not to mention giving governments and people an idea of what damage to expect from a magnitude 8+ earthquake!
The hope is that when future big earthquakes hit, every aspect of the lead up to, and impact of, such disasters will be well documented and studied. (The next big one could be closer to home than we think, as the course of the destructive Pacific Ring of Fire is pointing towards the west coast of North America.) This understanding could lead to improved procedures that prevent the kind of destruction experienced in Japan, and most importantly, help save lives.