The map includes active and recent fires reported by the Wildland Fire Interagency Geospatial Services group. The locations of the fires on the map are approximate, derived from data reported by the NASA FIRMS satellite-based fire detection system, which makes observations multiple times a day. Areas marked in red indicate where active burning was detected within 24 hours of the most recent detections reflected on the map. The exact boundary of a fire may differ from the extent shown on the map by 500 meters or more.
Air quality data is derived from PurpleAir sensors. Colored squares show the average levels of particulate matter in the air — PM2.5, or particles that are 2.5 microns are smaller in diameter — where sensor data is available within a 10-mile radius of each square’s position. Readings have been adjusted to account for the properties of wood smoke. The quality levels are based on the Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Population counts are rounded estimates. Totals are calculated using Global Human Settlements estimates from 2015 from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.
Zhao and colleagues from Oregon State University and Binghamton University began to look into satellite imagery, a major source of geospatial data used in applications ranging from climate observation to global shipping. In a recent paper, they explore the potential—and, as they show, the very real threat—of people using artificial intelligence to create convincing but fabricated satellite imagery. Like AI systems that have been created to generate realistic faces or malicious pornographers who’ve used cruder systems to make fake explicit videos using the likenesses of celebrities, Zhao and his colleagues have shown that deepfake satellite imagery can also be made.
When we think of deepfakes, we tend to imagine AI-generated people. This might be lighthearted, like a deepfake Tom Cruise, or malicious, like nonconsensual pornography. What we don’t imagine is deepfake geography: AI-generated images of cityscapes and countryside. But that’s exactly what some researchers are worried about.
Specifically, geographers are concerned about the spread of fake, AI-generated satellite imagery. Such pictures could mislead in a variety of ways. They could be used to create hoaxes about wildfires or floods, or to discredit stories based on real satellite imagery. (Think about reports on China’s Uyghur detention camps that gained credence from satellite evidence. As geographic deepfakes become widespread, the Chinese government can claim those images are fake, too.) Deepfake geography might even be a national security issue, as geopolitical adversaries use fake satellite imagery to mislead foes.
A group of energy-efficiency organizations has launched an online tool designed to help U.S. workers research career paths in the booming field of green building.
The interactive Green Buildings Career Map highlights career opportunities in building energy efficiency, with 55 jobs across four industry sectors, as well as over 300 potential advancement routes. It was developed with input from industry subject matter experts to help interested candidates learn about quality jobs related to energy efficiency in buildings.
The initiative, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office, was designed to foster a robust and inclusive pipeline of qualified workers to meet employer demand, said Larry Sherwood, CEO of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, one of its developers. “This is crucially important to sustaining the rapid growth of this important industry and ensuring the benefits of employment in this sector are accessible to more people,” he said in a release.
A new tool that measures the environmental quality of any urban street in Canada — and maps it out in colour — illustrates vividly the many neighbourhoods in the country that have poor environment scores, neighbourhoods that are often home to racialized communities.
Wind power, solar power and energy storage projects are providing new economic opportunities for rural Texas counties, bringing needed diversification, economic development, job creation and multi-generational revenue through a growing property tax base and payments to landowners.
That’s the key takeaway of CleanPowerPays.org, a new interactive website launched this week by the Advanced Power Alliance (APA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with the University of Washington, announces new interactive mapping tools to help utilities improve environmental health equity as they transition to cleaner energy generation. These tools identify communities in Washington that are disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution and vulnerable to climate change impacts so that these inequities can be addressed.
The new tools provide utilities with localized data on the environmental, health and climate risks communities face, supporting decisions that advance environmental justice in the state’s shift away from fossil fuels.
DOH analysis shows that 54 out of 64 electrical utilities in Washington contain communities highly impacted by fossil fuel pollution and other risk factors. Utilities will use these data to address inequities as they transition to cleaner energy sources.
Communities are “highly impacted” if they rank a nine or a ten on the Environmental Health Disparities map. This map captures exposure to pollution, fossil fuels, and other environmental hazards as well as social vulnerability factors such as income and race. Added to the map are new climate projections which show distribution of risks from climate change, which will help guide utilities’ efforts.
The Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2019, focuses on making energy cleaner and healthier. One component of that process requires DOH to identify communities that are unfairly burdened by environmental risk factors and climate change impacts. Utilities, under the guidance of the Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), will use this information to ensure the benefits of transitioning to green energy are more equitably distributed across communities.
“Having accurate, community-level data about environmental risks is critical to inform decisions by policymakers on funding priorities, environmental policy and strategies to help communities disproportionately impacted by pollution,” said Dr. Jeremy Hess, director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE). “This work is part of CHanGE’s mission to promote the health benefits of climate action and support key decisions in climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are committed to working with our partners to build on these tools going forward,” Hess said.
“This is one step toward helping our communities whose health is most impacted by environmental concerns, by focusing resources to help them with the transition to clean energy in Washington,” says Environmental Public Health Senior Epidemiologist Jennifer Sabel.
DOH will host a webinar for utilities and the interested public illustrating how to use the tools on Tuesday, March 16 from 1-2:30 PM. Click here to register.
CETA commits Washington to an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
The climate projection data is the result of a collaboration between DOH, CHanGE, the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and the UW Climate Impacts Group.
Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have developed the new American Crayfish Atlas, the first website to provide nationwide coverage of crayfish distributions, showing where crayfish species have been found and the extent of their ranges.
When using the American Crayfish Atlas, viewers can select specific species to find their range across the U.S., select information for a particular state, and use zoomable maps to learn which crayfish species are in their area.
Prior to the atlas, those seeking information on crayfish distributions might have discovered that the information found online is either difficult to find or is state-specific, making it hard to realize species’ full ranges.
“There was an obvious need for readily available crayfish distribution data for the entire U.S., not only for professional biologists, but also for the public to see which species were found within 10 miles of where they live,” said INHS curator Chris Taylor, who envisioned and then co-developed the atlas with one of his graduate students.
The atlas contains more than 43,000 records, gleaned from the INHS crustacean collection and from over 50 sources, including museums and the research literature and various institutions and state agencies, whose information had not been cataloged or made visible online.
Taylor and graduate student Caitlin Bloomer have ensured that the website data have been quality controlled. In developing the site, they looked for possible misidentifications, outdated taxonomy, and other errors in the historical data, such as wrong numbers in geographic coordinates that would indicate the incorrect location or the wrong species name. This process continues as they add records.
“Crayfish taxonomy has been changing rapidly in the last decade or so, with several new species described in the last few years,” Bloomer said. “This means that you must look through every Excel file that comes in and make sure all the scientific names have been updated.”
The atlas is particularly valuable for researchers and state and federal management agencies involved in making crayfish conservation assessments, Taylor said. One of the primary criteria to evaluate the species of greatest conservation need is the total extent of their range.
With the atlas, groups and agencies can quickly and accurately determine the ranges for various crayfish species. The site will also assist researchers in their crayfish studies and provide information for anyone who would like to know which species of crayfish may be found in an area or which species they might have seen while outdoors.
“Hopefully, the atlas will help spark research interests and garner more interest in these charismatic little crustaceans,” Bloomer said.