August 2013 Archives

Geographical Changes Matter


Ever since the big bang and the creation of the universe, our planet Earth encountered so many geographical changes, e.g., climate change, deforestation, population migration, and changes in sea levels. Such changes may have positive and/or negative effects on our lives or other species' lives. For instance, global climate change might lead to loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer more intense heat waves. Hence, It's quite essential for governments to carefully study geographical changes as well as their impact on our society.

We need not mention that computer scientists have a big role here which is to provide effective tools for geographers to manage and analyze geospatial data. Recently, ESRI released a set of interesting tools for geographers to study geographical changes. For instance, they provided a web-based tool, called "ChangeMatters", that helps geographers visualize a designated geographical region in order to manifest the geographical change in such area in a different time period. In other words, ChangeMatters allows users to visualize geographical changes on the map over like 30 years period. The figure below shows how ChangeMatters presents data for the "Aral Sea" area.

aralsea.png

The Aral Sea was a lake lying between Kazakhstan and Karakalpakstan. Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 26,300 square miles, the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. As it turns out from the figure (given above), a huge portion of the Aral Sea water shrinked substantially between year 1975 and year 2000 which makes it one the planet's environmental disasters.
ChangeMatters also helps geographers analyze changes in vegetation index, urbanization, desertification, and so many geographical phenomena. Such tools would help geographers better assess benefits and/or threats of such changes in Earth's Geography, and hence prevents environmental disasters or at least avoid their severe effect on our life. Given the importance of such tools, I envision more computer science research related to geospatial analytics to come.

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