Statement of Need
Disasters killed 500,000 people and caused $750 billion of damage over the decade 1990-1999, according to data presented in the “Living with Risk” report of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Although damage cannot be completely avoided, better coordination of observation systems and data will reduce these losses and help protect biota and other resources. Improved monitoring of hazards and delivery of information about them are critical for preventing hazards from becoming disasters.
Vision and How GEOSS will Help
The overarching 10-year vision in the societal benefit area of Disasters is to further enhance coordination among operational observing systems with global coverage. These need to be capable of supporting effective disaster warnings, responses, and recovery, and of generating information products that enable planning and mitigation, in support of sustainable development. Disparate, multidisciplinary, basic, and applied research must be integrated into operational systems. Gaps must be filled in observations, in knowledge, in technology and in capacity, but above all in organization. Providing this collaborative framework to permit free exchange of and efficient use of data, together with support for continuity of operations for all essential systems, is precisely the purpose of GEOSS.
Existing Situation and Gaps
A large number of agencies and organizations deal with disaster issues at national, regional, and global levels. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has mechanisms that enable the provision of weather data and forecast and warning services to areas suffering from disasters, and the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters focuses the efforts of participating satellite data providers on responding to specific requests in cases of floods, oil spills, earthquakes and other hazards. Our capability to monitor hazards needs to be improved. An approach that includes data from many different sources from both the natural environment and human infrastructure is essential. To provide timely and accurate information, it is necessary to integrate in situ measurements, airborne and satellite remote sensing, and predictive models. It is also essential to have basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to facilitate the analysis of these data, and many varieties of socio-economic and other relevant data. For instance, there is a lack of worldwide, high-spatial-resolution terrain models. There are efforts to develop a global terrain model, e.g. using the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) results, but even when fully available these results have horizontal spatial resolutions no better than 30 metres. Effective monitoring of crustal deformation using InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) requires 10 metres horizontal spatial resolution, and this is currently not available routinely. Floods, storm surges and tsunamis in areas of low relief raise the requirement for DEMs (Digital Elevation Models) with vertical resolutions of less than 1 metre. There are monitoring gaps relative to specific hazards. For instance, the study of geo hazards requires integrated, multi-disciplinary research focused on particular groups of volcanoes or high-priority tectonic zones for earthquakes. Deployment of in situ instruments, such as broadband seismometers and accelerometers, is incomplete. Remote sensing support, especially SAR imagery critical for deformation monitoring, has no guarantee of continuity, and the data supply is inadequate for real-time monitoring. Limitations on access to SAR data also impact the monitoring of ice hazards, oil spills, and inundation from flooding. Wildland fire detection depends in most areas on direct human observation on the ground or incidental observation from aircraft, in the absence of satellite sensors with appropriate temporal and spatial resolutions.
For more information regarding this SBA, please consult the “10-Year Implementation Plan Reference Document by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)”, available at: