What is a GIS?
Geographic information systems are software tools and digital maps that allow users to create interactive queries (user created searches), analyse spatial information, edit data, maps etc.It can help with assessing current and future scenarios. In a GIS software you can switch layers on and off allowing one to see different scenarios and evaluate different data. They can be used to prepare mathematical models for extreme weather forecasting because it can process complex spatial information unlike other electronic devices.
Examples of geographic information systems:
- Google Earth
What are these softwares used for?
- Risk analysis of weather hazards i.e. land users near hazard prone areas and the effect of different management strategies upon them.
- To identify people/groups and properties at risk from different magnitudes of extreme weather events. This is particularly useful for insurance companies too.
- To identify possible impacts of climate change for example, modelling increased rainfall intensity and frequency or higher temperatures.This includes other scientific investigations which it is used for.
- Helping decisions of what sort of management should take place in an area. It can help decide which location would be the most effective and what form defences should be put in place i.e. hard engineering or soft engineering.
- The software can help various agencies involved in the supply of services such as water, telecommunication, electricity, road, hospital etc. to understand the potential risks and impacts of extreme weather linked directly to their facilities and infrastructure.
- Can help organisations such as the Environmental Agency plan weather warning systems and identify the groups of population with the most risk.
The role of technology in metrology
Technology has lets us become very precise and efficient in planning, preparing and managing with extreme weather conditions. We can now predict hazards accurately; for example Hurricane Katrina was predicted accurately 6 days before the event by the National Hurricane Centre. As well as that, we are able to protect ourselves from these hazards for example the Thames Barrier protects parts of London from being flooded.
So what new technology do we have today?
- We have better computer modelling softwares which aids us in forecasting locations, durations and likely impacts of extreme weather. An example of this is GIFS (Global Interactive Forecasting System) which uses advance grid computation technology.
- Weather radar data can help us forecast precipitation. It uses Doppler radar to accurately measure wind speed in severe storms and precipitation over large area of land.
- Satellites are good with forecasting hurricanes and floods. They are used to estimate the rate of rain etc.
- GIS as mentioned above can be used to prepare mathematical models for extreme weather forecasting because it can process complex spatial information.
- We can measure droughts and storms and predict how long they will be around by examining pressure with new aneroid barometers and satellites.
However important the role of technology; it can sometimes be hard to implement it in vulnerable communities because they do not have the technical capacity locally and many people may not have the skills to use it. The cost of training staff and the cost of technology itself can be a problem for some of the most affected parts of the world. There could also be issues with the standardisation of information across agencies and countries.