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New Report Ranks Nations’ Environmental Performance, Reveals Trends

Tue Jan 23 00:00:00 EST 2018

screenshot of global map on Environmental Performance Index 2018 report

Air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released January 23 at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The biennial report, which ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality, was produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and CIESIN. Switzerland is ranked first in environmental performance, followed by France, Denmark, Malta, and Sweden. In 2016, France and Sweden also made the top five.

In spite of strong scores on sanitation and air quality, the United States places only 27th in the 2018 EPI, thanks to weak performance on deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues. This puts the United States near the back of the industrialized nations, behind France (2nd), the United Kingdom (6th), Germany (13th), Japan (20th), and Canada (25th).

Of the large emerging economies, China and India rank 120th and 177th respectively, due to pressures on the environment from high population densities and rapid economic expansion. “The strain on resources from past and current population growth, and the challenges of raising two billion people out of poverty, has meant that these countries face particular challenges,” according to co-author Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for science applications at CIESIN. “From nitrogen pollution, inadequate waste water treatment, air pollutant emissions and concentrations, China and India face severe environmental challenges.” 

In addition to rankings, the EPI identifies important environmental trends. For example, the report finds that fisheries continue to deteriorate in most countries, and air pollution—a problem largely “solved” in advanced developed countries—is still a critical problem in many developing countries, especially in India, China, and Pakistan. And some countries are failing to address critical problems. Deforestation, for example, has been a significant issue for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Cambodia for the past five years, reflecting broad policy failures, according to the report.

See: 2018 Environmental Performance Index
       State of the Planet blog: “Global Environment Report Card Sees Dirty Air, Failing Fisheries”

CIESIN Staff Honored for Ten Years of Service

Fri Jan 19 00:00:00 EST 2018

Five staff members who joined CIESIN a decade ago were among those honored at a luncheon January 18 recognizing employees for ten years of service at Columbia University. The event at the Confetti Restaurant in Piermont, New York was hosted by Sean Solomon, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society; and Robert Chen, director of CIESIN.

Susana Adamo began at CIESIN as an associate research scientist in the Science Applications division, and was promoted to research scientist in July 2015. A demographer, she focuses on georeferenced population data; migration, environment, and climate change; and livelihoods and social vulnerability. Adamo also serves as an adjunct assistant professor in Columbia's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B), teaching “Human Populations and Sustainable Development.”

Kytt MacManus started at CIESIN as a research assistant in the Geospatial Applications division, where he attained the positions of staff associate and later senior staff associate. In 2014 he transferred to the Information Technology division as a geographic information systems programmer. MacManus has been an adjunct lecturer at Columbia's School of international and Public Affairs (SIPA) since 2010 and has taught in E3B since 2014. 

After working as a part time research assistant at CIESIN beginning in 2005, Valentina Mara joined the Science Applications division as a staff associate in 2007. She was promoted in 2010 to senior staff associate, focusing on urbanization, climate vulnerability, and environmental performance metrics. Mara also serves as adjunct faculty in SIPA and the School of Professional Studies, co-teaching courses in data analysis and visualization.

James Carcone and Frank Pascuzzi joined CIESIN as senior system analysts and programmers in CIESIN's Information Technology division. They have developed and implemented a wide range of server-side and web-client applications to support the dissemination, visualization, and analysis of scientific data and information. A key focus of their work has been the use of open, standards-based technologies to facilitate interdisciplinary integration and delivery of geospatial data to diverse users, e.g., through interactive web mapping tools and mobile applications.

Earth Science Data Experts Hold Joint Meetings in Maryland

Tue Jan 16 00:00:00 EST 2018

The 2018 winter meeting of the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) was the focal point for a set of co-located meetings in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, Maryland, January 8–12 to which several CIESIN staff members contributed. Senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in the Enabling FAIR Data Project: Targeted Adoption Group Workshop January 8, part of a new initiative recently launched by the American Geophysical Union to develop standards to connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories in support of the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data principles. At the ESIP winter meeting, Downs served on the plenary panel, ‟Wildfires, Hurricanes, and Drought, Oh My!,” describing hazard-related data and tools available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. He also gave presentations on data management training, information quality, and data risk factors in a number of other sessions. Downs was re-elected as the Type 1 Representative to the ESIP Governance Committee during the business meeting.

Two other joint meetings were held January 11. Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, participated in the General Assembly of the EarthCube Council of Data Facilities, a federation of existing and emerging geoscience data facilities supporting the National Science Foundation′s EarthCube community. He represented the International Council for Science (ICSU) World Data System (WDS) in his capacity as a member of the WDS Scientific Committee, and gave a presentation, “Certification for Open and Trustworthy Data Repositories.″ CIESIN director Robert Chen also attended the ESIP winter meeting, participating in an all-day joint meeting with the All Hazards Consortium (AHC) focused on operational readiness of data and data services for emergency response to disasters. The AHC supports industry, government, and other stakeholders in their efforts to coordinate restoration of power and other utilities after hurricanes and other major disruptions. Chen gave a short presentation, “Operational Readiness of SEDAC Data and Services,″ at the  session, “Operational Readiness Levels: Measuring the Benefit of Trusted Data for End Users,″ organized by the ESIP Disaster Cluster. The SEDAC Population Estimation Service is an element of the AHC Multi-State Fleet Response Working Group GeoCollaborate service.

Downs also attended the 8th Working Group/Interest Group Collaboration meeting of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) January 11–12 at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He represented the Repository Platforms for Research Data Interest Group, which he co-chairs.

See: Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Winter Meeting 2018

NASA Showcases Research Using Earth Science Data

Fri Jan 05 00:00:00 EST 2018

NASA has recently released the 2017 edition of Sensing Our Planet, free in print or for download at the Earthdata Web site. The publication highlights the use of earth science data in a range of scientific research areas, from hazard prediction to public health to water resource management. One of this year′s articles, “Zika Zone,” focuses on mapping the spread of the Zika virus. Researchers Moritz Kramer from the Harvard Medical School and Janey Messina from the University of Oxford combined environmental data about the Zika virus—for example, preferred habitat, temperature and rainfall requirements, and need for stagnant water to lay eggs in and heavily populated urban environments—with population data to create maps showing environmental suitability for the transmission of the virus. Data sources included the Gridded Population of the World (GPW) data collection from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN and a vegetation index based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). Mapping the transmission in this way let the scientists estimate the number of people globally at risk—more than two billion—and anticipate areas of potential Zika outbreaks, helping to inform public health decisions. GPW data were also used together with gravity and radar data and land surface models from several other DAACs to assess groundwater resources in Mexico, as described in the article, “Closed Season.″

Sensing Our Planet highlights data from the twelve DAACs of the NASA Earth Observing Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The publication has been produced since 1994 by the Snow and Ice DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.

See: Sensing Our Planet 2017

Changing Mangroves, Future Heat Stress, and Data Stewardship Addressed in New Publications

Thu Jan 04 00:00:00 EST 2018

CIESIN staff and colleagues have capped the end of 2017 and launched 2018 with several new publications on a range of topics. Senior research associate Pinki Mondal is a lead author of a study on long-term changes in mangrove extent in Sierra Leone. The West African country lost 25% of its mangroves between 1990 and 2016, the span of the analysis. Using remote sensing data, the study focuses on four estuaries—Scarcies, Sierra Leone, Yawri Bay, and Sherbro—to provide insight into mangrove management strategies that can support local livelihoods. Sylwia Trzaska, associate research scientist, and Alex de Sherbinin, associate director for Science Applications, are co-authors. The work was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and conducted in collaboration with Tetra Tech. The paper appears in the journal Sensors, as part of a special issue, “Remote Sensing of Mangrove Ecosystems,” edited by Chandra Giri, an alumnus of CIESIN now with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Alex de Sherbinin is also co-author of a new global study of heat waves appearing in Environmental Research Letters, among the first research to include humidity as a critical factor in assessing heat stress impacts. The lead authors are Ethan Coffel and Radley Horton of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The study utilizes data available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN—Global Population Projection Grids Based on SSPs, v1 (2010 – 2100)—to quantify the number of people who may be exposed to extreme heat stress in the latter half of this century under different scenarios of development (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs).

Senior digital archivist Robert Downs has three new publications on various data management topics. He authored the chapter, “Enabling the Reuse of Geospatial Information,” in the book, GeoValue: The Socioeconomic Value of Geospatial Information, edited by Jamie B. Kruse, Joep Crompvoets, and Francoise Pearlman and published in November 2017 by CRC Press. He is also a co-author, with Devan Ray Donaldson, Ingrid Dillo, and Sarah Ramdeen, of a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Digital Curation on the perceived value of acquiring “data seals of approval,” an international standard for trusted digital repositories. Finally, he has authored the conference paper, “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Lessons from a Scientific Data Center,” in The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. This was based on his presentation at the 37th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment in Tshwane, South Africa in May 2017 about how the emerging set of data management principles developed by GEO applies to interdisciplinary data management at SEDAC.

See: “Landsat-Derived Estimates of Mangrove Extents in the Sierra Leone Coastal Landscape Complex during 1990–2016”
       “Temperature and Humidity Based Projections of a Rapid Rise in Global Heat Stress Exposure During the 21st Century”
       “Humidity May Prove Breaking Point for Some Areas as Temperatures Rise, Says Study” (Press release)
       “Enabling the Use of Geospatial Information”
       “The Perceived Value of Acquiring Data Seals of Approval”
       “Implementing the Group on Earth Observations Data Management Principles: Observations of a Scientific Data Center”