Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lab 7 Fire and Air Quality

For this lab, I wanted to explore the air quality of LA county and its relation to the station fire. According to the InciWeb site, the station fire took place in 2009 and was officially contained on October 16th. The station fire was the 10th largest fire in California since 1933. The Station fire has claimed the lives of two firefighters and injured 22 people. The report stated that the fire was contained following rainfall in the San Gabriel Mountains in the earlier week. Along with the rainfall, fire fighters were able to contain the remainder area of the fire in the San Gabriel Wilderness Area. 

Since so much was burned, consistent rainfall and moisture will greatly reduce chances of wildfires in the near future for the San Gabriel Wilderness Area. I wanted to show the moisture in the LA county area, so I decided to add LA County data with water presence. Since the viewer cannot blow up the size of the image, it is a bit difficult to fully see every portion of water; regardless this map offers an interesting perspective. Although there is adequate water coming into the the LA county (Much of this water is taken from aqueducts from the northwestern and Midwestern United States), this still not fully stop wildfires from taking place in southern California's chaparral. Water has a role to play with air quality. Since LA county pollutes so much that when the water evaporates, some of it becomes acid rain. 

Something to consider about wildfires is that they are natural and need to take place in order for the environment to go through the necessary steps of regrowth. Wildfires inherently cause smoke which is not healthy to the environment and the organisms that inhabit it. The air quality of LA is known for being very unhealthy. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the air quality for Orange County increased from 15 to 20% from 2002 to 2003.  The Daily News of Los Angeles states that even though there have been improvements, the Los Angeles area holds its place as the most ozone-polluted area in the US. This statement was given by the American Lung Association in April 2009.

The Huffington Post stated that six in 10 Americans, which is approximately 175 million Americans. Los Angeles county has a high percentage of the nation's population. Though this is due to being such an industrial city, some of it is due to fires. Air quality is an important issue that needs to be addressed because it affects our health and can lead to lung diseases which shorten life expectancy. Since they are natural, it is beneficial to take part in controlled burning, which helps the environment as well as limits the amount of air pollution. The reason the station fire was so hazardous was that it covered such a large area and that dry debris had been piling up so that when the fire started it spread very fast.

As one can see, the majority of people who live in the LA county live before the San Gabriel Mountains. The wind patterns allowed the smoke from the station fire to carry throughout the county. It greatly increased air pollution at that time. In my personal experience, the news informed many not to exercise around this time because it was harmful to one's lungs. Fires like the Station Fire could have been avoided. It was not a natural fire, but the authorities were unable to find the culprit. Controlled natural fires that are reoccurring are the most beneficial for the environment. The LA county has to understand that its location involves natural fires, so measures need to be implemented to prepare for those situations. Sometimes mistakes happen and the community has to be prepared to live with those affects.

Work Cited


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lab 6: Digital Elevation Models [Aspen, Colorado]

Aspen, Colorado

The area I have chosen to do my digital elevation model is Aspen, Colorado. "A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano..." I chose this area because when I was a child I wondered how the characters Harry and Llyod (from the movie Dumb and Dumber 1994) dove a small moped motorcycle all the way to Aspen successfully. There had to been way too many inclines and mountains for that little moped to handle. On a serious note, I went to Aspen recently on a Fraternity ski trip and had a really great time playing cards, eating, and snowboarding. The mountains are so amazing and I thought it would be interesting to display this area in digital model. This type of information would be useful for many different purposes. One that relates to why I chose this area relates to contractors who are looking to construct a new ski resort on another mountain near Aspen. On a biological scale this type of information is important in mapping types of vegetation and species because elevation has a huge impact on the species diversity and range. 

The following information describes the area, the extent information, and the geographic coordinate system.

Top: 39.7522222217degrees
left: -107.004166666 degrees
right: -106.474999999 degrees
bottom: 39.2777777772 degrees
Spatial Reference: GCS_North_American_1983
Datum: D_North_American_1983

Although there are other visuals that have been modeled from this data, the hillshade is the most visually appealing. It's glossy finish and color chart really allows one to see how the elevation is from a bird's eye view.

This view one to put the elevation on the two-dimensional scale and see the spikes of elevation.

The aspect ratio allows one to see the elevation changes at different angles.

For all you Dumb & Dumber Fans
Follow this to see their amazing feat on a moped.

I stayed at Hotel Jerome when I went to Aspen. If you would like to check it out, take a look!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lab 5: Projections

The following images are represented in Equal Area, Equidistant, and Conformal projections. I have given two examples of each type of projection along with labeling the two cities Washington, D.C. and Kabul, the distance between, and I have given some comments regarding the projections toward the bottom.

Equal Area



Map projections allow us to view the earth in many ways. Since the earth is a three dimensional shape it makes converting it to a computer or drawing slightly difficult. The easiest way of displaying this data is to put it into a two dimensional surface or shape. This is very useful because it provides different perspectives of the same data, which could lead to many different conclusions. There are positives and negatives towards map projections. As a result of not being able to easily represent the earth fully in a three-dimensional shape, each compares different variables and unfortunately distorts distance, shape, or area (however, many researchers have agreed on the Mercator projection showing the best results).

In map projections that distort area, such as sinusoidal projects, the area of the map north to south and east to west has the same area. When compared to the conventional two-dimensional map, the area is adversely different. The sinusoidal projection allows the grid to be equal area so, if one were to look at Greenland, it seems as if it is as long as North America. The cylindrical equal area projection takes the two-dimensional map and wraps it around a theoretical cylinder. This is helpful when the projection is concerned with the middle near the equator but towards the north and south, the projection follows the cylinder rather than a sphere. This map projection is very close to what the projection would be like on a simple two-dimensional plane. The distortion of area is something that needs to be noted otherwise it can cause one's conclusions to become inaccurate if this is not taken into account.

This is similar to equidistant projections because in those projections the distance is not changed but the area and shape is distorted. This is an interesting way to look at the earth, but one must not overlook that the measurements between two points are not the same distance. The equidistant conic projections offers an interesting outlook of the earth. In this projection the earth is viewed from the northern or southern pole and then squashed onto a two-dimensional surface. The equidistant cylindrical projection shows the earth represented by a two dimensional shape in the form of a cylinder, but unlike the cylindrical equal area projection, it also preserves distance. Since these map projections have equal area, it changes the 'actual' area of the real land mass.

In conformal projections like Mercator projections keep angles preserved while distorting shape and area. This is one of the most used projections because it can represent lines constantly as straight line segments. It maintains angles, Greenland again is displayed with having more land mass than South America. The gall stereographic projection does not preserve distances or area. This type of projection takes the spherical world and projects it onto a circular plane. There is much potential, but at the same time many perils when comparing and analyzing the accuracy and significance of map projections, but the only way to fully visualize the world is to see it through all types of map projections. If one were to over look variables that are not maintained in certain map projections, then results could turn for the worst. One has to exercise utmost caution and question the validity and accuracy of a projection when working with them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lab 4: Potential and Pitfalls of GIS

Example Proposed Airport Expansion
By Tej Singh

GIS is always changing the way we view, interact, and share our world with each other. Global information systems have many different purposes, which include but are not limited to: transportation, population, politics, wildlife, environmental degradation, weather, architectural planning, and much more. This lab walked the user through a tutorial about a proposal for an airport expansion. It looked up noise pollution, population density, land use, and proximity to schools. Variables like noise, population, land use, and proximity to schools play a part in a community deciding whether to approve this proposal. If this expansion would hinder students from paying attention and learning in school because of the noise, then it would likely not be passed. Population plays a role by accessing whether the community will actually require an airport to prosper. Lastly if the land is not occupied by human influence, the environmental factor would also affect the chances of this approvals success. Variables are analyzed in GIS to figure out an beneficial solution to a problem. 

Some potentials of GIS include the ability to predict future events based on past and current data. For example if a contractor wanted to know whether or not it would be profitable to build a housing complex or neighborhood in a certain area, he would be able to look up data records for population, climate, birth rates, death rates, proximity to schools, etc and put them all on different layers in a GIS raster grid. By using variables like these, an educated guess could be made by the data. 

Although GIS allows us to explore the world and increase our understanding, there pitfalls to GIS. 
The biggest pitfall of GIS is the need for precise and accurate information or data. If the data that is provided is excluded, or inaccurate then it does produce a good projection. It has been stated that when one puts garbage in, he or she will get garbage out. I realized this while I was working on this lab because, there were so much room for error if I did not review the tutorial pdf while I was working with ArcMap. Since GIS is so professional, it cannot be easily understood by the general public without some understanding of the program. This makes it hard for the average person to use GIS to explore and analyze the many variables that it is capable of working with. Neogeographical programs like google earth, yahoo maps, google maps, etc. are better suited for the public, while GIS like ArcMap and other programs are used by researchers and students. 

For a very long time, GIS was only in the hands of the government. This type of access to such information was held very high because of fear of it falling into the hands of an enemy or someone who could exploit the information for personal gain. It was only until recently that it was released in to GPS so that one could more easily navigate around world. Now most people won't travel anywhere without already looking it up on map quest, google maps, yahoo maps, or other types of programs. One pitfall with this (that some people would not see as relevant or interesting, but I would like to point out), is that the romanticism of the world has been lost. Not long ago people would take road trips across the planet so that they experience an unexplored part of the world. Now one is able to look up almost anything such as restaurants, airports, universities, companies, hotels, and other things, which makes the world a smaller place. GIS helps us understand what we already know and helps us see what could result from it. Since technology is moving forward, advances in GIS has more potential than pitfalls as of right now.