Arctic Ice and Prairie Soil: GeoCENS is Branching Out

Lazy summer days? Not so for the GeoCENS team, which has been working long hours to fine-tune their unique environmental monitoring portal.

As you are no doubt aware, the Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Sensing (GeoCENS) project is collecting remote sensor data related to the Earth's climatic, hydrologic and biotic systems, and making it available for analysis and exchange through a maneuverable 3D map (check out an intro to the portal here). The GeoCENS portal offers over 88,000 satellite image/map layers and 6,000 sensor data layers. And since May, nearly 16,000 sensor stations and over 530 million observations have been added to the platform!

Some of the newest datasets to be uploaded include:

1. Precipitation and soil moisture measurements from the South Saskatchewan River Basin during the 2007-09 summer seasons. Samples were taken in 24 selected quarter sections just south of Kenaston, SK. The characteristics that were monitored include soil temperature, silt specific soil moisture, real dielectric constant and soil temperature corrected conductivity. This information was uploaded from the Drought Research Initiative portal.

2. Arctic ice thickness and snow depth measurements that go back as far as 1947, from Environment Canada. These measurements were made at the first established stations in the Canadian Arctic (Eureka and Resolute), and were taken at approximately the same location every week, starting after ice freeze-up and continuing until break-up (or when the ice becomes unsafe to walk on). The ice thickness is measured to the nearest centimetre, and the depth of snow at the location of the ice measurement is also calculated to the nearest centimeter. (See the picture, left, taken at the Eureka station. Courtesy of Emily McCullough)

3. The St. Denis Evaporation Dataset, uploaded by Rob Armstong, a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan. These data focus on evapotranspiration (the sum of land and plant evaporation into the atmosphere) over three areas in the St. Denis National Wildlife Area '€” a typical prairie pothole landscape '€” over the summers of 2006 and 2007. The evaporative characteristics of the grassland and wetland next to one pond were studied as part of a larger investigation into evapotranspiration variability over the Canadian Prairies.

These are just a few of the fascinating bits of information available for anyone to browse and download. Anyone, that is, except for Mac users (such as myself). Currently, any attempt to access the GeoCENS browser using a Mac computer or tablet leads to this message:

Oooops. Are you using a Mac?
We are sorry that GeoCENS is not available for Mac OS at this time. That is because GeoCENS uses the Java applet technology (e.g., the next generation plug-in). Unfortunately, Mac OS-X is the only desktop platform that doesn't support it.

Well, fear not, Apple-lovers, the GeoCENS team is on the job, and are adapting a Mac-friendly browser that will be accessible on any portable tablet or smartphone by the end of August (you can catch a sneak peak of it here). The new viewer is expected to be faster and less "weighty" than the current 3D Google Earth-like viewer (see image, below).

Capture Sensor Globe

The portal is also now offering a web search API, which will allow users to develop their own sensor web mashup. And new social networking options will also enable you to "follow" your favourite researchers on GeoCENS to see what they are working on, and what new datasets they are uploading.

So, as you can see, the GeoCENS portal is constantly growing and evolving, and this expansion is expected to continue up until the project end-date in December, 2011. Feel free to check up on it regularly to see what interesting new data is available for inspection. Or, follow the team on Twitter for the latest GeoCENS news and activities.

Are you searching for any specific geospatial data that you can't find on the portal? Leave a comment below to let us know what to add!