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NASA tracks climate change in its own backyard

NASA's data and research have informed the climate change discussion for decades, but the agency also has its own interests to consider.  With much of its facilities and infrastructure in coastal areas, NASA faces hard decisions should there 50 percent more coastal flooding events near the Johnson Space Center by 2050, as a 2014 study suggested.

To help prepare for the challenges climate change will present, the agency has just tasked its Climate Change Adaptation Science Investigators (CASI) workshop to gather data and build tools to help NASA facility managers and planners ensure sustainability.

The CASI initiative brings Earth scientists together with facility managers, emergency management staff, natural resource managers and human capital specialists at each NASA center to discuss management of climate risks and resilience.

The portal -- which is being developed jointly by CASI, the NASA Johnson Space Center and Jacobs Technology -- will be based on historical remotely sensed data to measure change over time.

The data currently being collected and integrated by the CASI team is impressive, and includes multispectral and hyperspectral optical and LiDAR datasets from NASA Earth Observation Satellites (including the International Space Station), airborne sensors and astronaut photography using hand-held digital cameras.

Specifically, the geodatabase includes:

  • Astronaut photography 1969-2015.
  • Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer data 2001-2013.
  • Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Oceans data 2010-2014.
  • Landsat sensor series data 1972-2014.
  • National Agriculture Imagery Program data for selected counties 2004-2012.
  • Very high resolution aerial imagery for the main Johnson Space Center campus collected in 2007.

According to NASA GIS specialist Amy Jagge, the current focus is primarily on developing imagery and analytic capabilities for the NASA Johnson Space Center facilities in the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. But the team has broader goals.

“While the focus of CASI is on the federal facilities,” Jagge said, “we decided to build a historical database of remotely sensed data that includes not only JSC, but the entire Houston/Galveston metropolitan area, including the whole of Galveston Bay. The intent was to create a regional database that can be used by not only NASA, but that would be publically available to support collaborations with other agencies, academia, NGOs, etc.”

The assemblage of historical imagery and data means that GIS specialists will be able to run time-series analyses of changes in vegetation, land use/land cover and land surface temperatures.

“Once our geodatabase is stored within the ArcGIS for Server repository, then the individual mosaic datasets within the geodatabase can be published as image services with raster functions,” Jagge said.  After an image service is published with a raster function, she explained,  a web mapping application can perform image processing and analytical functions.

Jagge said she expects the web mapping tool, which has not yet been finalized, will be able to perform on-the-fly processing of data into the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, an indicator that is used to assess the type and health of vegetation.  The tool is also expected to have an embedded slider that will allow an analyst to view historical imagery side by side and step back through time to see changes in biomass, surface temperature and inundation zones during flooding.

Once the mapping application -- which is being created with a JavaScript application programming interface -- is finalized, the team plans to integrate it with NASA’s GIS Institutional Portal, an agencywide repository.

Posted by Patrick Marshall on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:55 PM


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