Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earth-Observation Summit Endorses Global Data Sharing

Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/330/6006/902
Science 12 November 2010:
Vol. 330. no. 6006, p. 902
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6006.902

News of the Week

Remote Sensing:

Earth-Observation Summit Endorses Global Data Sharing

Richard Stone BEIJING—Last August, heavy monsoon rains submerged nearly one-fifth of Pakistan, inflicting $43 billion worth of damage. The floodwaters destroyed homes and businesses, washed away bridges and roads, ruined crops, and claimed about 1800 lives. As bad as it was, the toll could have grown in the weeks that followed if not for a novel Earth-observation system featured at a meeting here last week.

Figure 1

Waterlogged. This SERVIR-Himalaya analysis shows flooding along the Indus River in Pakistan's Sindh Province last August. CREDIT: ICIMOD, NASA
[Larger version of this image]
In July, before the deluge, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu—along with NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development—had booted up SERVIR-Himalaya, a Web-based monitoring system that pulls together satellite imagery, forecast models, and ground observations. It "showed the progression of the floods in [near] real time," says Sherburne Abbott, associate director for environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As the disaster unfolded, analyses revealed that flooding had knocked nearly 200 tuberculosis clinics out of commission. Forewarned, aid agencies scrambled to steer patients to functioning health centers. "They knew they were going to have a real problem," Abbott says. SERVIR is one new instrument in a veritable orchestra of Earth-observation systems intended to make reams of data available and relevant to decision-makers. At the summit last week of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)—the organization attempting to get this ensemble performing in synchrony—initiatives were unveiled to monitor land-cover changes and forest carbon stocks. And GEO delegates embraced plans to funnel data from platforms tracking everything from biodiversity to earthquake risks into a free and open database. "What's happening is groundbreaking," says David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. "This data is incredibly valuable. If you share it, your incremental contribution can yield a super benefit."
Established in 2005, GEO is an effort by 85 countries, the European Commission, and 58 international organizations to meld disparate remote-sensing tools and ground-based databases—300 databases and counting—into a seamless Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which is expected to come fully online in 2015. When GEO was conceived, "we understood that if you want to manage planetary problems, you have to have planetary information—which didn't exist at that stage," says Bob Scholes, a biodiversity expert at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.

Figure 2

Data fundamentals. Of 146 critical Earth observations, GEO rates these 10 as the highest priority. CREDIT: (SOURCE) GEO
[Larger version of this image]
GEO's progress has been remarkably swift, Scholes adds, and the project has overcome the view that data should be hoarded, not shared. "When an earlier generation of scientists collected data on the public purse, they considered it their data. The norm now is that data will quickly enter the public domain," he says. To reinforce such good behavior, "persistent identifier" tags are being developed that will note which scientists or teams contributed data to GEOSS. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is spurring agencies to release data via www.data.gov. "OMB is looking to measure our department's productivity in part by how much we're adding to the public's access to data," says Hayes. NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey 2 years ago began allowing free access to their 4-decade Landsat archive, including images with a resolution of 30 meters that enable tracking of land-cover changes wrought by human activity. And riding new open-data legislation in the European Union, the European Space Agency plans to allow free access to data streams from its soon-to-be-launched Sentinel satellites, says Manuela Soares, director for environmental research at the European Commission's Research Directorate. "There's been delivery of data on a massive scale," says Gary Richards of Australia's Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in Canberra.
Ground-truthing such data is a key element of Silva Carbon, a U.S.-led scientific network announced here to help GEO improve access to Earth-observation data on forests. SilvaCarbon is expected to develop technologies to implement one of the few bright spots in international climate negotiations: REDD+, a program to reduce emissions from deforestation and enhance forest carbon stocks. Together with GEO's Global Forest Observation Initiative, SilvaCarbon "shows that we are ready to take the next big step to a robust and transparent global monitoring system for forest carbon," says Richards.
A second new effort, the Global Land-Cover Data Initiative, aims over the next 2 years to compile and publicly share a current snapshot of Earth's land-cover conditions. Landsat data provide 80% coverage; GEO partners will fork over the rest.
As GEOSS is woven from disparate data sets, there have been a few glitches in integrating the information. "We can't get all data into the free and open database at this point," says Abbott. And some resistance remains. "We still get pushback," says Scholes. "Some countries worry about how data release will affect national security." Nations fret, for instance, over satellite data they have no control over and others revealing info such as flows rates of transboundary rivers. Of course, all agree that some sensitive data, such as the precise location of the last few individuals of an endangered species, should not enter the public domain. "But these instances are now perceived as the exceptions to the rule," Scholes says. And that, he says, testifies to the profound cultural change on data sharing that GEO is helping drive.

Science. ISSN 0036-8075 (print), 1095-9203 (online)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Climate Change Impact in Jomsom of Mustang District

Climate Change Impact in Jomsom of Mustang District

It is an old news, but in an attempt to compile all the stories on climate change impacts in the Himalayas, the news article form Everest Journal.com is provided below:

Fright of climate change and its effects is making life of alpine people a nightmare. People of Mustang have also been experiencing terrible nightmares due to the effects of climate change in their livelihood and economy lately.
Fluctuation of temperature and irregular pattern of rain and snowfall has severely affected the lives of Mustang. Mustang’s popular apple farming is on the edge of extermination due to no rainfall and no snowfall in the valley for an entire year. Due to increase in temperature, house flies and mosquitoes are plentiful nowadays while some years before they were rarely found. Locals are facing shortage of water because of rapid evaporation and water sources drying up drastically. Not only the Jomsom and lower Mustang, but even VDCs of the Upper-Mustang are facing water shortage. Due to this, livestock are severely affected. The areas where no plants were found some years before has started to grow plants because the snow-line is moving up to an altitude of 5,000 m. Since there is hardly any rainfall, fertile lands have turned barren. This has also had an adverse effect on the livestock. Local people have noticed the drastic change in bio-diversity and wildlife movement though. As per the locals, one can easily find jackals at an altitude of 3800 m these days, which was impossible until just a few years ago.
The maximum temperature in Jomsom Valley town rose to 27 degree Celsius while it was 24 last year. This year the minimum temperature recorded here was 13 degree Celsius while the preceding years normally dropped down to less than minus 4 degrees Celsius. This year, the town area of Jomsom Valley saw no snowfall and no rainfall at all.
Horticulture is the worst among the affected, which is on the edge of extinction. “In Kunjo and Kobang, there is no apple farming at all now,” said Paras Bahadur Singh, the conservation officer of Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). He informed that locals of Kunjo are now considering orange farming as an option and in Kobang people are opting walnut farming.
Mustang which resides 14,000 people is now considered one of the most vulnerable places under the threat of glacier lake outburst. Experts have said that Thulagi glacial lake in northern Manang, is the biggest danger of the region.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than in any other part of the world and the resulting meltwater could trigger flooding, avalanches and the devastation of land within some years. Tsho Rolpa at the height of 4580, Lower Barun at 4570, Imja at 5000 metres, Thulagai at 4146 metres are some among the many glacial lakes prone to GLOF (glacial lake outburst flood) risk.
Nepal has around 3,250 glaciers, and hundreds of millions of people in South Asia depend on the rivers they help to sustain, according to the Ministry of Environment. Since 1964, there have been more than 13 reported glacial lake outbursts causing damage to livestock, property, environmental resources and infrastructure in Nepal.
Since Nepal is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change, the government is gearing up to make its existence felt at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. “The risks are growing, especially for people living in mountainous areas, and we are taking this message to Copenhagen,” a government official said. “Our hope rests on the world leaders of powerful nations to make historic decisions in Copenhagen,” he added.

Source: http://www.everestjournal.com/climate-change-threat-to-jomsom-mustang/

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NASA, USAID Expand Environmental Monitoring System to the Himalayas

Washington, DC - NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development have expanded their successful collaboration with international partners to launch an innovative, web-based environmental management system for the Himalaya region.

The partners inaugurated this state-of-the-art regional monitoring system, known as SERVIR-Himalaya, at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu, Nepal on Oct. 5. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and USAID's Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade Michael Yates attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Nepal.

SERVIR features web-based access to satellite imagery, decision-support tools and interactive visualization capabilities, and puts previously inaccessible information into the hands of scientists, environmental managers, and decision-makers. The Earth observation information is used to address threats related to climate change, biodiversity, and extreme events such as flooding, forest fires, and storms.

An initial SERVIR hub for the Mesoamerican region was jointly developed in 2005 by researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and USAID development experts in Washington, DC and Central America. Its name comes from the Spanish word meaning "to serve."

"USAID's commitment with SERVIR and NASA is to create the linkage from space to village, to apply the best in science and technology to meet development challenges," said Yates. "We are pleased to work with our partners in Nepal, and in other regions of the world, to build capacity to use satellite data and mapping technologies for making practical decisions that improve people’s lives."

This NASA-USAID partnership combines NASA-derived technologies with USAID understanding of foreign assistance to improve livelihoods in the developing world to reduce poverty and help avoid conflict in order to bring people and their environment into harmony.

This year, USAID will invest $18 million in the global expansion of the SERVIR platform, establishing new hubs in the developing world as an integral part of its global climate change initiative.

"NASA's science mission begins here on Earth, with greater awareness and understanding of our changing planet, and solutions for protecting our environment, resources and human lives," Bolden said. "The SERVIR technology, and our partnership with various organizations and people around the globe, reflects NASA's commitment to improving life on our home planet for all people."

Since 2005, SERVIR has served the Mesoamerican region and the Dominican Republic from the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is based in Panama. Building on this initial success, USAID and NASA added a second SERVIR hub in East Africa at the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development in Nairobi in 2008.

NASA and USAID are now expanding SERVIR to the Hindu-Kush - Himalaya region to address critical issues such as land cover change, air quality, glacial melt and adaptation to climate change. The agencies are working in partnership with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, a regional knowledge development and learning center that serves member countries in the region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

The countries in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya area have unique needs related to their extreme mountain environments. The region is known as Earth's “third pole,” because of its inaccessibility and the vast amount of water stored there in the form of ice and snow. Like the Polar Regions, this area is experiencing glacier melt due to a changing climate.

"I am very pleased that through the partnership with USAID and NASA on SERVIR-Himalaya, ICIMOD will be able to augment its capacity and its network of cooperative partners in the region to use Earth observation for societal benefits of the mountain communities," said Basanta Shrestha, division head of the Mountain Environment and Natural Resources Information System for ICIMOD.

SERVIR-Himalaya will integrate Earth science data from NASA satellites with geospatial information products from other government agencies. SERVIR was developed in coordination with the Group on Earth Observations, more than 80 nations working together to build a Global Earth Observing System of Systems to benefit the needs of society.

For more information about SERVIR, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/servir

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://nasa.gov