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International Geospatial Briefing August 30th: Climate Change Atlas from the IPCC; Space Junk Collisions Tech to Prevent; Chinese Team is 3rd to Create Carbon Flux Models; A Facelift for Antarctic Maps; Open Source Data is Putting the World’s Slums on the Map; Visualizing the World’s News – Mapping the Taliban’s Capture of Afghanistan

An Incredible New Interactive Atlas from the IPCC for Visualizing Climate Data

Worldwide this summer, we have seen devastating wildfires and floods, from Siberia to Germany to the west coast of North America. As we experience these extreme weather events, we are reminded that climate change is knocking on our door and that this may only be a preview of things to come. Activists and organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have issued warnings for decades.

Sea Level Rise Medium Term vs Long Term displayed on the IPCC’s new interactive atlas.

For many people, climate change seems to be a far off threat. That is what makes the new mapping tool that the IPCC released this week an incredible resource for educating ourselves on what is to come with climate change. The interactive atlas lets you visualize variables such as Sea Level Rise, Sea Surface Temperature, Frost Days, Precipitation, Particulate Matter and many more across a wide variety of timelines from the immediate to the far future and using many different models. We could describe the capabilities of this incredible tool forever, but we think you should just go check it out for yourself here. For those looking for a bit more information before getting started, Vox wrote a great article exploring the ins and outs of the atlas while hinting at some tips and tricks that will make it more useful.

The Good and Bad of Space Junk

Back in March, the Yunhai 1-02 Chinese military satellite experienced an unexpected breakup in orbit. Being a relatively new satellite that had only launched in September of 2019, there were many questions about what had caused the event. Was it a malfunction, an explosion, or could it have possibly been a collision with space junk? Thanks to an update from space-track.org, we now know that the destruction of this satellite was due to a collision with debris from the Zenith-2 rocket (that launched a Russian spy satellite way back in 1996). We have all seen the images of our growing space junk debris field that is orbiting Earth, and for many, this is one of the industry’s most pressing problems. They say that we can only expect these collisions to occur more frequently and become a bigger problem in the future. 

They haven’t met the people over at Aurora Propulsion Technologies, a Finnish company interested in the sustainable use of space. Scheduled for launch with Rocket Lab in Q4 of 2021, the company plans to test proprietary propulsion devices using water-based propulsion jets and plasma brakes that they see as the future of space junk removal. The technology enables satellites to generate significant amounts of drag at the end of their lifespan, which would allow them to be deorbited safely, effectively reducing the amount of space junk in orbit. To find out more about their plans, check out the press release here.

Chinese Satellite is the 3rd to Demonstrate CO2 Flux Measuring Capabilities

Chinese researchers have recently compiled their countries first global carbon flux dataset. The high-quality data was collected by TanSat, the countries first CO2 monitoring satellite. Using data that covers a period from May 2017 to April 2018, the Chinese have proven their ability to monitor global carbon emissions and track the atmospheric flux of CO2. This capability has only previously been seen by Japanese and American researchers, making China the 3rd country to accomplish monitoring on this level. As we face future issues with global climate change, tracking a carbon budget and emissions worldwide will be critical to assessing different countries achievements (or lack thereof) in reducing their carbon footprints. To find out more about TanSat and the Chinese teams accomplishments, click here.

An Updated Map of Antarctica

The official map of Antarctica is getting a much-needed upgrade. The Australian Antarctic Division has published a 1:20 million scale map of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, the most detailed map ever produced of the region. A map that was last updated in 2011, the new edition is the first to be produced using GIS. This added a new range of possibilities, making changes to simple aspects such as font and colour much easier than in previous editions. It also allows for shading options to be explored more easily than when shading was done by hand. The creators wanted to provide a more realistic shading of the tumultuous landscape, and a digital GIS allowed them to play with things such as the location and direction of sunlight for shading, as well as adding textural elements through the combination of datasets. to learn more about the creation of this new and improved Antarctic map, click here.

Open Source Data is Helping to put the World’s Slums on a Map

Many of the world’s poorest slums are not properly represented on maps. This realization came about after Alejandro Velásquez used a job-search website to locate his house. Living in La Vega, a slum of Caracas, Venezuela, he realized that his community, like many other slums in the global south, is not well-represented in maps. This lack of representation can lead to a variety of issues for residents of these areas. City planners and officials cannot provide social services to places that they do not know exist. Nikolai Elneser “heard Velásquez’s story while doing social work with an NGO in La Vega and decided to create a mapping project for the neighborhood with students from Simón Bolívar University in Caracas.” This resulted in the mapping and digitizing of an area home to an estimated 180,000 people who can now expect to be seen by their local government. To learn more about how the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and other international NGO’s are working to replicate the project spearheaded by Elneser, click here.

Schools and health centres are mapped in an informal district of Lima.
From i.mappin

Maps Help Visualize the Taliban’s Advance Across Afghanistan

World events can often lead to discussions about countries localities that many people are not familiar with. While Afghanistan is a name that most people will have heard over the last 20 years, placing it on a map will be difficult for many. Understanding the events in Afghani geography is more difficult for many more. The power of maps is that they allow us to become educated on unfamiliar topics and provide visual context for these events we hear on the news in ways that words alone cannot manage. The animated image below provides incredible context for the devastating capture of provincial Afghani capitals by the Taliban over the past few weeks. For a more detailed breakdown, you can check out this article from Al Jazeera.