A GIS is designed to manipulate, analyze, capture, store, manage, and present all types of geographical information. It has become the common application to analyze spatial information regarding climate change. The nature of the geographical system implies that spatial data analysis will occur using this system.
Roger Tomlinson is the acknowledged father of the Geographical Information System. He is also credited with coining the term “Geographic Information System”. “The early days of GIS were very lonely. No-one knew what it meant. My work has certainly been missionary work of the hardest kind.” Roger said. He was credited with developing the first GIS system called the Canada Land Inventory in 1962. Canada was undertaking a massive mapping project. They were going to map over 1 million square miles of rural land. They were going to map it out using the traditional method of manually mapping the entire spatial area. Roger Tomlinson, was ahead of his time, in fact, he was way ahead of his time. He had been thinking about trying to digitally map large spatial areas.
In 1962, he met with the head of the Canadian Land Agency and they had a monumental meeting. He presented his ideas to this man and then in 1963 he submitted a 3 million dollar proposal. The proposal suggested that the land be mapped digitally. The traditional method would have cost Canada 8 million dollars to complete the project. They accepted his proposal so was born GIS.
He won many prestigious awards in regards to his pioneering work in the GIS field. He contributed many advancements in the field. The GIS community had suffered a great loss with the death of Roger Tomlinson. It was a great sadness that he suddenly passed away on February 9, 2014, at the age of 80.
The Growing Importance of Geographical Information System across Many Disciplines
GIS has become increasingly critical in being used as a tool in science fields across the board. It is now used around the world for many different applications. It is not only used in the public sector but the private sector as well. For instance, in North America it was used for planning oil pipelines and planning relief for hurricane Katrina. In England, it was used for planning the HSR Rail Link. Each of these types of projects would be physically impossible to map the routes by manual means. Using the digital format makes the project much easier to plan and plot out.
It has become so widespread that there are many options for GIS degrees and most schools and universities across the country have at least one relevant program. Increasingly, undergraduate degrees are including a module and anybody working in an environmental science field is strongly recommended in 2015 to take it up where available. Most jobs will not require a MS, but the advanced project management skills a master’s student acquires will be essential to some roles.
Climate Scientists daily work with thousands of sets of data to analyze, manipulate and organize into a system of organized information that will make sense. GIS is the perfect tool for them to accomplish these ends with. The very nature of GIS allows it to organize and make sense of large volumes of spatial data and put the data into a way that can be understood.
If GIS is not used then these scientists cannot make sense out of the big compilation of data they gather but with GIS the data can be compiled and set into sizeable bites of data. Examples of how GIS is used but this is not an exhaustive list:
- Palaeoenvironment scientists will use GIS to study chemical compositions taken from ice core samples and they want to order the data across geographical lines, between geographical lines, or from different time periods in the same area. Ice Core data can be used to construct data from the past.
- Scientists need to extract atmospheric forcing from one another so the supposed effects of global warming can be shown. They analyze other factors to show natural processes like sunspots, localized weather conditions, El Nino and La Nina, and from season to season and by incoming weather fronts. The GIS will give them this necessary atmospheric data.
- The calculation of global and regional areas temperatures assists scientists in graphing temperature changes over years; these findings will indicate hot spots where the changes will cause concern for scientists. As a whole the data will show scientists where changes have been erratic or above the normal temperature ranges of the present and past. What this will indicate to scientists is where global warming (according to the scientists) is occurring.
- Global population and the effects this growth will affect the ecology of the planet. This is especially when the growth changes the natural landscapes around the planet. The loss of animal and plant biodiversity is a serious problem for climate scientists that may have monumental long term effects on the planet, they print out maps all the time to show policy and decision makers because they are a great visual medium for these professional people.
- A big function of GIS is that it is used for climate modelling which helps climate scientists to understand the potential climate changes 10, 50, 100 years into the future. These predictions are made based on current climate information gathered. Remember these are hypothetical predictions about how the climate may change in different parts of the world.
Without the above examples of how GIS is used it would make it very difficult for climate scientists to tackle some of the major climatic issues that face the planet now and may face in the future. Also past climatic patterns will help to predict what may happen in the future on the planet. It helps scientists to understand what the human race has done to the planet in the past and what man may do to the global climate in the future. Don’t forget GIS helps scientists to understand what the human race is currently doing to the climate of the planet.
Unusual Weather Conditions are Revealed Using GIS
Flooding, drought, more hurricanes, stronger tornadoes, unusually low seasonal temperatures, and unusually high seasonal temperatures have been showing up in places on the globe where they usually don’t occur. For example, “December 2013 to February 2014 saw the Polar Vortex in North America, flooding in the UK and across Europe, and record high temperatures in Siberia from the preceding to the following summer leading to forest fires.”
GIS can take what seems like unrelated information and make sense out of it so scientists and organizations can better understand spatial patterns and relationships. So, in other words, if a weird weather pattern is occurring in Siberia while a hurricane is ravaging the southern shore of North America the scientists would be able to relate the two weather events even though they are occurring in different parts of the globe.
GIS is not limited to just spatial patterns but it can analyze many other sets of data. It can compare contrast types of data concerning people, such as populations, income levels, or even educational levels. GIS may be able to compile very personal information as well. This may or not run into privacy issues.
GIS can tell the kind of landscapes that are being surveyed like the types of soil, vegetation, and the location of streams. It may have the aide of a satellite to map such minute details as the types of soil that are on the globe. It can also show the sites of farms, factories, schools, storm drains, roads, and power lines. A single map can show sites that poison the climate with pollution such as factories, sites that are sensitive to pollution, such as wetlands, and rivers.
Linear networks called geometric networks are marked by roads, rivers and public utility grids on the GIS. Overall, the GIS must make all the information from the maps and sources align so they fit on the same scale. A scale is the relationship between the distance on the map and the actual distance on the earth.
Today, climate scientists use GIS to model many physical attributes of the earth and the climate as it changes around the globe. On important function the researchers use with the GIS is to predict what the climate will due in the future based on current and past trends the climate of the earth has displayed.
Author: Jake Gladwell