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Image of the week - Computationally mapping damage in Haiti

Computationally mapping damage in Haiti


Image courtesy of MAGIC.

This image maps earthquake damage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti as of 13 January 2010. Areas overlaid by the translucent orange squares suffered the most damage, followed by dark and then pale yellow. (To see a larger version of the image and read the legend, click on the image above.)

A variety of data sets crucial to disaster relief efforts, including these maps, are hosted on the Corral system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The Mid-American Geospatial Information Center (MAGIC) at the Center for Space Research (CSR) at the University of Texas at Austin curates remote sensing data gathered via satellites, aerial reconnaissance, radar, LiDAR, and photography.

According to Gordon Wells, program manager and principal investigator for MAGIC, data needs to be processed before it is distributed to emergency responders.

Satellite images captured obliquely from space distort the Earth's topography such that the raw image files from satellites are often inaccurate, limiting their usefulness. This was the case with the original images used by rescue workers in Haiti.

"If you were out in the field and you had a GPS unit to keep track of where you had visited to do a search and clear operation, you could be blocks off in your geo-location with respect to an uncorrected image-map," Wells said. "We're refining the geospatial data so that the field teams can use the imagery effectively during their field traverses."

This process, called geospatial image registration, integrates different sets of data to produce image products having a more accurate reference system synchronized with map coordinates. Registration is necessary to be able to precisely pinpoint locations.

The processed images are not only in use by responders, but also to resources such as Google.

The Corral system, which was deployed in April 2009, consists of 1.2 petabytes of online disk space along with several servers. Corral was designed in consultation with CSR, which made it possible to rapidly get the system up and running as a portal for CSR's geospatial Haiti data in the aftermath of the earthquake.

To read more about Corral, MAGIC, and Haiti disaster relief efforts, please visit the TACC press release. To see more maps of Haiti, visit MAGIC's portal.

-Miriam Boon, iSGTW

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