Tuesday, 9 September 2014

USGS seeks volunteers to analyze Hurricane Sandy coastal region

Photo Credit: USGS

Disasters impact a community that often have long term effects that are difficult to understand or recover from. We tend to believe that short term efforts should be implemented without worrying about future consequences. People want to get on with their lives, not worry what could happen in 10 or 15 years time. The pressures placed upon government agencies at all levels to implement recovery plans quickly is immense. Data needs to be collected and lessons learned documented before innovative approaches can be achieved. This can take months, if not years to complete, something most communities will not accept. Hurricane Katrina is an well documented example of what not to do during the recovery and reconstruction phase. 

The good news is that we get better and try to bridge gaps by bringing resources together to forge ahead. Scientists, researchers along with community leaders and local volunteers are beginning to recognize that solving long term resiliency measures while rebuilding can be achieved. The USGS is funding a unique program to understand how Hurricane Sandy has impacted all of the coastal regions in the northeast. Described below is the outline of the plan and how anyone can help and support the initiative using popular crowdsourcing techniques with current technology and sharing your data over the internet. 

Since 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has collected over 140,000 aerial photographs of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts before and after 24 extreme storms in order to assess coastal damages. The USGS has not been able to use these images to the fullest extent due to a lack of the information processing capacity and personnel needed to analyze the thousands of images they collect after each storm. Computers cannot yet automatically identify coastal changes adequately. Human perception is still needed. “USGS iCoast - Did the Coast Change?” is a USGS research project to construct and deploy a citizen science web application that asks volunteers to compare pre- and post-storm aerial photographs and identify coastal changes using predefined tags. This crowdsourced data will help USGS improve predictive models of coastal change and educate the public about coastal vulnerability to extreme storms.

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