Friday, February 25, 2011

The value of spatial visualisations during disasters

Images: Up in the air between Sydney and Canberra.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I?

Canberra, Australia: S: 35º 15' E: 149º 08'

With recent tragic events associated with the Queensland floods, Cyclone Yasi in Northern Queensland and now the devastating Christchurch earthquake, the visualisation of extent and impact via remote sensing and spatial visualisations have come to the forefront of reporting. TV and newspaper reporting have effectively used the capacity of spatial technologies to document and show the impact of disasters. Combined with video, graphicas and images the media has been effective in informing the public on the extent, nature and impact of these disasters on the built environments, landscapes and community. However in our excitement over the potential of spatial representation during these times we should not lose touch with the fact that we are watchng in real time, real people suffering real hardship. Spatial visualisations must not become clinical and non-thinking" of the human component, several degrees detached. When watching the spatial visualisations it becomes quite easy to just focus on the technological wonder and not appreciate the degree of human suffering occuring in the space being visualised.

Here are just some of the sites which have been so influential over the past few months reporting these extreme natural events.

Queensland floods (January 2011)

Cyclone Yasi (February 2011)

Christchurch earthquake (February 2011)
* Flyover of the Christchurch fault line.
* Before and after images of the fault zone.

Some other sites of visualisations interest when considering a world view:

* Are storms and extreme climatic events becoming more common? This video has an interesting take on this question:

* NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock who is currently aboard the International Space Station shares pictures of the Earth he snaps with the world through Twitter. Known to his nearly 68,000 Twitter followers as Astro_Wheels, Wheelock has been posting impressive photos of the Earth, including Cyclone Yasi over recent months. To view some amazing pictures of the earth from the space station go to

* Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four

*The data visualisation video “Information is beautiful” can be seen using the following link:

* Some more great visualisations. Mostly science orientated but still spatial.

* Geography animations - particularly on physical geography and climate.

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