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Wildfire Watch
Jamais Cascio, 30 Jul 04

I could go on and on about how the GeoMAC Wildfire Viewer is a tool for open-source intelligence about the environment, or -- by allowing overlays of regional hydrographical, transportation, and historical fire information -- how it makes the invisible visible, or how it is the latest manifestation of Internet-accessible Geographical Information Systems (GIS)... but, really, the reason I am fascinated by this GeoMAC site is that it so damn cool.

GeoMAC -- the name stands for Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination -- is a US Geological Survey tool developed to help firefighters monitor the progress of wildfires, and it is available on the web as both a detailed California map or a nationwide map (each has a slightly different interface). As very elaborate javascript applications, they can be a little slow, although they're by no means the worst I've seen. They were clearly built with firefighters in mind:

In order to give fire managers near real-time information, fire perimeter data is updated daily based upon input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data, infrared (IR) imagery from fixed wing and satellite platforms. The GeoMAC web site allows users in remote locations to manipulate map information displays, zoom in and out to display fire information at various scales and detail, including downloading desired information and printing hard copy for use in fire information and media briefings, dispatch offices and coordination centers. The fire maps also have relational databases in which the user can display information on individual fires such as name of the fire, current acreage and other fire status information. Additional data layers like fuel status information, fuel types, aircraft hazard maps, links to remote weather station data and other critical fire analysis information are currently being added to the GeoMAC application.

Even for those of us not in charge of putting out the fires, the GeoMAC system is a fascinating tool for watching the progress of these all-too-common summertime conflagrations. Prepare to spend a lot of time playing with it.

(Thanks to Mack Reed for pointing me to the California GeoMAC)

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Comments

Hi Mack,

Very cool. I think one of the things the world needs more of are tools that make systems visible. We need tools to show FLOWS -- flows of money, flows of water, flows of people, flows of information and knowledge, flows of waste.

It's amazing how effective this kind of awareness is in changing behaviour, changing the way decisions are made, and so on.



Posted by: NIcole Boyer on 3 Aug 04



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