Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wildfires and Computer Modeling

An interesting story appeared in the New York Times today about how the US Forest Service and others are enlisting a "one-of-a-kind" computer model to help with fire prediction. They're using slope, prevailing wind, soil moisture, locations of trees killed by a bug, and other geographically identifiable attributes, so why didn't the Times call this high-end computer model a GIS? This is a long-standing frustration I've had with Times reporting; they don't usually call something that is GIS...GIS.

There's even a slick figure showing a time series of relative numbers of lodgepole pines trees killed by beetles. It's all GIS! (In the Times article, click on the map like the one shown below.)

Nor did they fully report the story. The project is the result of an inter-agency collaboration. In the paper version of the Times, no mention was made of this really great web site, that anyone with a browser can use.

From the GeoMAC (Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination) web site:

The Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group or GeoMAC, is an internet-based mapping application originally designed for fire managers to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters in the conterminous 48 States and Alaska. Using a standard web browser, fire personnel can view this information to pinpoint the affected areas.

They've got Google Earth layers and a web mapping application with current fire status data. This is terrific, useful and powerful information made available for everyone and it's not some kind of inaccessible data or something only scientists can view.

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