Most of the Earth’s terrain changes little over time. Therefore, getting the latest GIS data is nice, but you also pay a premium price for the benefit. With that said, there are times when updated elevation data is critical and that’s what this article is about. Here are some situations where updated elevation data is beneficial.
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Urban Growth: Urban growth changes the land as new homes and commercial buildings are added and new roads are paved. A great example of this is the time-lapse images of Las Vegas from 1984-2012. As you can see from the video, land around Las Vegas metropolitan area went through dramatic changes over this 28 year period as the population went from 460,000 to well over 2 million people. To keep up with this rapid change, GIS data needs to be updated on a regular bases to represent the new changes.
Natural Disasters: Natural disasters like floods and earthquakes cause some of the most dramatic changes to terrain. 2016 was a devastating year for flooding in the United States and other parts of the world. Major floods in the United States this year included Houston, Texas in May, West Virginia flood on June 23, and the Louisiana flood in August. The recent 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy left buildings in rubble and streets damaged and littered with debris. Other earthquakes this year include a 7.3 earthquake in Ecuador on April 16, and a 6.2 and 7.0 earthquake in Japan also in the month of April. Earthquakes and floods can spawn landslides and tsunamis leading to additional damage and terrain changes. Elevation data taken before and after these natural disasters can improve our understanding of the effects of natural disasters and can improve the accuracy of natural disaster models (see below).
Models: Computer generated models leverage historical data to help predict future events. Elevation data acquired over time of the same area can help geospatial experts improve their predictions and better understand the major causes of those changes. Models can help us better understand our environment and prepare for and even minimize natural disasters.
Border Enforcement: Most countries are concerned with managing their borders. This includes ensuring the safety of their citizens from potential enemies. Current data is critical to monitoring those borders and being aware when potentially lethal encroachment is about to occur.
Most of the Earth’s elevation changes very slowly over time, and therefore, older data is still cost effective, helpful and relevant. However, depending on your use of the data, current elevation data may be required. What are some other areas where current data is critical? Add your comments below.