Floods in Pakistan: Satellite Images Provide "Before" and "After" Information

08 September 2010 | News story

Satellite images are used by humanitarian agencies and first responders to plan relief and evacuation activities by comparing “before” and "after" imagery to detect changes to the landscape and infrastructure. From CEC member Nancy Colleton, CEC Specialty Group Leader for Environmental Information.

Keith Wheeler, CEC Chair, views knowledge management and environmental information as essential tools for disaster relief. These images are one example of how environmental information can be used in disaster response.

Before Image
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This one-meter ground resolution satellite image shows a portion of Risalpur, located on the Kabul River in the Nowshera District in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province about 45 km from Peshawar. The image was taken on Aug. 6, 2009, almost one year before Risalpur experienced historic flooding in late July and early August 2010. This image could be used by humanitarian agencies and first responders to plan post-flooding relief and evacuation activities by comparing “before” imagery to detect changes to the landscape and infrastructure. The IKONOS satellite took this image from 423 miles in space as it moved from north to south over Pakistan at a speed of four miles per second.

After Image
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This half-meter ground resolution satellite image shows a portion of Risalpur on Aug. 5, 2010 after Risalpur experienced historic flooding and shows the coastline and town covered in mud and water. According to news reports, this area of Pakistan hasn’t seen such flooding since 1929. The floods have collectively killed an estimated 1,500 people in Pakistan, affected 4.2 million people and displaced millions from their homes. The GeoEye-1 satellite took this image from 423 miles in space as it moved from north to south over Pakistan at a speed of four miles per second.
 

Images of Earth's surface like these from Raisalpur are one source of 'environmental information' we can use when monitoring change.

Dynamic maps and imagery of Earth’s surface are now essential tools for emergency responders, transportation workers, and urban planners, and new user-friendly geographical technologies, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) tools and online maps, are becoming a part of daily life.

In recent years, a rapidly expanding interdisciplinary community of scientists has drawn on new geographical concepts, tools, and techniques to advance understanding of topics such as environmental change, sustainability, globalization, and population dynamics. As a result, geographical ideas and information have become increasingly central to science, as well as to planning, environmental management, and policy making.

Many of the central challenges of the 21st century are tied to changes to the spatial organization and character of the landscapes and environments of Earth’s surface as populations move, natural resources are depleted, and climate shifts. Research in the geographical sciences has the potential to contribute greatly to efforts to monitor, analyze, and prepare for these changes.

Read more in the paper “Understanding the Changing Planet”. CEC member Nancy Colleton was a member of the National Academy of Science committee that produced the report.

Learn more about the CEC Specialty Group for Environmental Information, visit the CEC website >>

 


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