Figure 9. Map of earthquake in Morocco, February 2004.

Providing Civil Crisis Information, Emergency Mapping

Dr. Stefan Voigt
Team lead for "Natural Hazards and Crisis Information”

Torsten Riedlinger
Scientific Staff

Dr. Harald Mehl
Unithead for "Environment and Geoinformation”

"Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information”
an initiative of the German Remote Sensing Data Center
Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich (DFD) German Aerospace Center, Köln (DLR)

Due to the increasing occurrence of natural disasters, humanitarian emergency situations and civil endangerment, there is a rising need for near-real-time information. The experiences of the past few years also show the demand for timely, extensive and wide-area earth observation data for various crisis situations.

The German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) as part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been active in the field of crisis analysis for several years and has recently set up the Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI). The center serves as interface and front-end for the comprehensive satellite data acquisition, processing and analysis capacities available within DFD and DLR in order to serve the operational civil protection and humanitarian relief communities. Besides response and assessment activities, ZKI focuses on geoinformation about medium term rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention activities.

ZKI operates in national, European and international contexts, closely networking with public authorities (civil protection and civil security) and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s such as humanitarian relief organizations and the United Nations), as well as satellite operators and space agencies. DLR through DFD/ZKI supports and participates in the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, which is a major cooperative activity in the context of natural and man-made disasters providing complimentary satellite imagery for civil protection world wide. In case of a natural disaster in Germany, and also where required globally, ZKI coordinates the acquisition and analysis of satellite imagery as project manager in the scope of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.

As the promotion of the application of space-based information within the international relief community is a long-term effort, ZKI has formulated long-term goals as follows:

  1. Bundling existing technical and scientific resources and capacities at DLR, especially within the Applied Remote Sensing Cluster, to increase their effectiveness and coordination for crisis management,
  2. Developing and establishing methods to generate specific information products and services in the range of disaster management, humanitarian relief and civil security
  3. Developing and establishing a distributed European network for civil satellite-based crisis information
  4. Enhancing relevant information technology and infrastructure

In order to meet these goals ZKI makes use of the full fleet of scientific and commercial satellites available today. These include optical satellites like SPOT, IRS, LANDSAT, IKONOS, and QUICKBIRD, and radar satellite imagery like ENVISAT, ERS or RADARSAT. A very efficient and successful cooperation has been established between DFD/ZKI and European Space Imaging to provide extremely fast acquisition and analysis of IKONOS imagery over Europe and worldwide. The IKONOS system is unique in that it allows regional operations centers around the world to locally task the satellite and directly download the information, and this makes the system highly efficient for near real-time crisis and disaster relief purposes.

In various crisis situations and emergencies, ZKI and these partners provide image maps with pinpoint accuracy to disaster relief organizations. Examples include maps made during last winter's flooding in southern France ; after earthquakes in Iran in December 2003 and in North Morocco last February; and during forest fires in Portugal in the summers of 2003 and 2004.

Forest Fire Damage Assessment in Pinheiro Grande , Central Portugal

Figure 1. Forest fires in the Algarve Region of central Portugal, Aug. 17, 2003
At the beginning of August 2003, the Portuguese "Servicio Nacional de Bombeiros e Proteccao Civil" requested activation of the "International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.” The "Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information" of DLR took over the project management for this call from Portugal at the request of ESA and is coordinating data distribution and analysis. During the 18 days of charter activation, 52 image products were delivered through ZKI to the fire control forces. In cooperation with European Space Imaging, DFD conducted a fast mapping activity to assess the extent and damage of forest fires in the Algarve Region. See Figure 1.

The satellite images were used for different purposes during the fire fighting and recovery phase. While the high resolution satellite images helped to assess the damage and the mapping of burnt areas in different provinces and communities, daily medium resolution thermal NOAA/AVHRR images helped to redirect fire fighting efforts to the places where they were needed most urgently. DFD/ZKI acquired and processed those images daily during early morning hours and provided the results to the Portugese agency only a few hours after acquisition. This allowed the fire fighting teams to make their decision on where to concentrate the fire fighting efforts and capacities with timely and up to date information.

Forest Fire Damage Assessment in Monchique, Southern Portugal

Figure 2. Collected on July 28, 2004, this image shows burned areas in Monchique, southern Portugal
Again in July 2004, forest fires in Spain and Portugal were recorded and analyzed at DFD's ZKI, which produced a detailed satellite map of the affected area in the Monchique region. In addition, MODIS imagery was analyzed to obtain an overview of the current distribution of fires across the entire Iberian Peninsula . The maps show orchards, forests and agricultural-use areas. The local road and path network, as well as settlements and houses, are clearly visible. Burned areas can be distinguished in the satellite image. See Figure 2. Using geometrically high resolution images, the demarcation of the fire front can be identified in detail. On this account, these datasets can be used for the localization of damaged infrastructure.

Explosion Disaster Near Novobogdanovka , Ukraine

Figure 3. Explosion in southern Ukraine destroyed arms dump, shown here on May 8, 2004. Fires were still burning at the time of acquisition
Figure 4. The explosion site detail taken by IKONOS, 46 hours after the disaster, May 8, 2004
Figure 5. The Rhone river flood in southern France
Figure 6. Bangladesh map in the Dhaka region were used for the management of drinking water after flooding
Figure 7. Envisat image of Elbe Valley, Germany flooding on Aug. 19, 2002. Spatial resolution = 25 m; Incidence angle = around 23 degrees; (IS2) Red channel = HH polarization; Green channel = HV polarization; Blue channel = difference between HH and HV polarization.

Figure 8. MODIS images were used in sequence for analyzing and mapping of the dynamics of the Elbe flood. Left: August 16, 2002; right: August 20, 2002

On May 6, 2004 , a military arms dump southeast of the village of Novobogdanovka in southern Ukraine exploded. According to press statements,10,000 people in the surrounding villages had to be evacuated and a major highway and railway line connecting the cities of Melitopol and Zaporizhzhya had to be blocked. The satellite image in Figure 3 shows that the arms dump was completely destroyed. Large amounts of debris were hurled hundreds of meters and even kilometers into the neighboring villages and agricultural land. The satellite imagery shows that some fires were still burning in the explosion area during the time of acquisition. The second map in Figure 4 shows the explosion site in detail, approximately 46 hours after the onset of the disaster.

Rhone River Flood, Southern France

The French Civil Protection authorities called the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters in December 2003 for the severe flooding situation on the Rhone river. Various flood analysis products were generated in the Charter context, and ZKI supported the relief activities by generating a high resolution flood map for the northern parts of Arles on December 6th. See Figure 5. This activity showed how bundling existing technical and scientific resources and capacities helps to increase effectiveness and coordination in crisis management.

Bangladesh Flood, Base Mapping of Dhaka Region

At the emergency request of the Technische Hilfswerk (THW, The German Disaster Relief Organization) ZKI compiled IKONOS satellite imagery from Space Imaging's extensive archive to create an image base map of the area around the capital Dhaka . The maps were used for planning purposes during a joint humanitarian aid campaign in August 2004 by THW and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) with a focus on drinking water management and supply after heavy flooding damage during July 2004. See Figure 6.

Elbe River Flooding, Germany

This Envisat radar image of the Elbe Valley in Sachsen , Germany was taken on August 19, 2002 . It shows the flooded areas at that time in black or blue. The flooded areas are particularly large around the city of Riesa . See Figure 7.

This image demonstrates the increased capabilities of the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) onboard the Envisat spacecraft as compared with the SAR sensors on the earlier ERS generation of satellites. Envisat’s ASAR instrument is the first permanent space-borne radar to incorporate dual-polarization capabilities - the instrument can transmit and receive signals in either horizontal or vertical polarization. This Alternating Polarization (AP) mode can improve the capability of a SAR instrument to classify different types of terrain. Because the reflective properties of a surface are dependent on the polarization of the incoming radar signal, the use of more than one type of polarization provides valuable extra information. Details on figure 7: Spatial resolution = 25 m; Incidence angle = around 23 degrees; (IS2) Red channel = HH polarization; Green channel = HV polarization; Blue channel = difference between HH and HV polarization.

This sequence of seven Modis images were used for analyzing and mapping of the dynamics of the Elbe flooding event from July 28 to August 22, 2002. See Figure 8. It allowed analysts to better understand the spatial and temporal behavior of the flood. Due to the fact that MODIS imagery can be processed and acquired in-house at DLR/DFD, these images often serve as reference for further planning and optimization of high resolution satellite data acquisitions.

Earthquake Damage in Iran and Morocco

Supporting the international relief activities undertaken by various humanitarian organizations in the area around the city of Bam , Iran , in December 2003 and in the area of Al Hoceima, Morocco , in February 2004, the ZKI generated damage assessment maps from satellite imagery and provided them to the international relief community. See Figure 9 above.

The maps were very helpful for the relief teams as they provided a first overview of the affected areas and allowed them to identify the most affected areas. Mapping of damages in earthquake areas can be very difficult if houses are partially damaged or the affected houses are spread out over large rural areas. In many cases international rescue teams start out from their home bases without any topographic or road map of the affected areas so even archived imagery often helps to provide a planning and decision base. If satellite maps can be provided to in-field coordination teams they can be of great help for avoiding duplication and misunderstanding as already searched areas can be clearly marked on the maps, thus saving precious time for further search for injured people.

The formation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is an important example of space agencies and participating nations working together for the greater good. Satellite imagery has proven to be extremely beneficial for regions affected by disaster and suffering from crisis in many cases, especially whenever it was possible to provide up-to-date and high quality information to decision makers and relief workers in a timely manner.

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