Mapping Disaster Zones

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area, causing $81.2 billion in damage and resulting in the deaths of nearly 2000 people. With such widespread devastation, how did relief workers reach the damaged areas? Mapping technologies helped workers to identify priority areas and create a plan to aid those affected.

GPS and disaster relief Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites send signals back to Earth telling the receiver the exact location of the user. The satellites travel at approximately 11,2000 km/h, and are powered by solar energy. During Katrina, GPS signals provided up-to-the-minute information regarding destruction detail and locations of survivors and aid workers.

Using GIS Another important mapping tool used during disasters is the Geographic Information System Technology (GIS). This technology captures, stores, records, and analyzes data dependent on geography and location. As a result, many important decisions about environmental issues or relief efforts can be made using GIS data. After Katrina, GIS data provided relief workers with images of area hospitals within a small geographic area. This enabled emergency workers to get injured individuals to medical facilities quickly.

Other imaging systems Other mapping software packages provide actual pictorial images of the Earth. These images show the damaged areas as well as buildings that can be appropriate for setting up relief sites.

Synethetic Aperture Radar (SAR) polarimetry is an imaging technology that is able to rapidly detect disaster zones.

This aerial image shows some of the flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Images like this help workers navigate through the altered landscape.

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Earth Science

Mapping Applications Research a recent natural disaster by visiting glencoe.com. Write news article that describes the disaster based on the images of the disaster you find. Include several images in your news article.

This aerial image shows some of the flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Images like this help workers navigate through the altered landscape.

With other satellite images, views of the affected landscape can be blocked by clouds, darkness, smoke, or dust. By using radar, SAR mapping is not affected by these things, thus making the images readily available to relief workers.

Mapping areas affected by natural disasters with satellite and aerial images makes these areas accessible by relief workers. They are better able to prepare for the changes in local geography, destruction of buildings, and other physical challenges in the disaster zone. Continued improvements in mapping technologies and increased accessibility are important for continued improvement of disaster relief programs.

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Earth Science

Mapping Applications Research a recent natural disaster by visiting glencoe.com. Write news article that describes the disaster based on the images of the disaster you find. Include several images in your news article.

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