CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Expert Meeting on Scenarios, which took place May 18–20 at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Participants took stock of the use of climate and socioeconomic scenarios in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and recommended actions to improve their use in the Sixth Assessment. Levy gave a presentation on the second day of the meeting, proposing how governance indicators could be incorporated into climate scenarios. He also participated in a working group meeting May 21 on quantitative impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability indicators, organized by the International Committee on New Integrated Climate Change Scenarios (ICONICS). The meeting reviewed recent work on quantitative scenarios of poverty rates and income distribution.
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A new data release offers insights into the extent of global human exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over more than a decade. The new data set replaces an earlier one released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN and features improved accuracy, a longer time span, and higher spatial resolution than the previous version.
Satellite-derived estimates of PM2.5 provide one of the few ways of assessing changes in exposure to air pollution around the world over the long term. The data set consists of a series of global grids representing three-year running averages, from 1998-2012, derived from measurements of Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) from three different NASA instruments: MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), MISR (Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer), and SeaWIFS (Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor). The grids were developed by Aaron van Donkelaar and colleagues at Dalhousie University in Canada.
These global grids of estimated PM2.5 surface concentrations, expressed in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), are useful for health and environmental research and have already served as a valuable input to the World Health Organization (WHO) global burden of disease study. Fine-particulate matter represents one of the most serious types of air pollutants and is of particular concern in many parts of Asia. For example, the estimated proportion of the people in East Asia living above the WHO Interim Target-1 of 35 μg/m3 increased from 51% in 1998–2000 to 70% in 2010–2012.
The raster grids have a grid cell resolution of 6 arc-minutes (0.1 degree, or approximately 10 km at the equator) and cover the global land surface from 70 degrees north to 55 degrees south. More details can be found in the van Donkelaar et al. 2015 article, “Use of Satellite Observations for Long-Term Exposure Assessment of Global Concentrations of Fine Particulate Matter,” in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
In a recent visit to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave a presentation to the ORNL Environmental Sciences Division on data and monitoring needs for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are currently under negotiation by governments as part of the post-2015 development agenda; after they have been adopted, the international community will face an even larger gap between monitoring needs and available capabilities. A global data partnership and an expert consultation are needed.
While at ORNL, Levy participated as an observer in a meeting of the user working group (UWG) of the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC) May 13–14, in his capacity as the lead project scientist for the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. Like SEDAC, the ORNL DAAC is part of NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS); its focus is on biogeochemical and ecological data and models.
More than 100 representatives of member states and participating organizations of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) met May 4–7 in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss and further develop a new strategy and work program for the next phase of the voluntary intergovernmental organization. CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the meeting in his capacity as a co-chair of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group, which oversees the evolution and implementation of the data sharing principles for the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). Established in 2005, GEO has successfully implemented GEOSS as an operational network that links remote sensing and other geospatial data from around the world and makes them accessible for both research and decision making. Over the next decade, GEO plans to incorporate rapidly growing volumes of data from increasingly diverse sources and ensure their regular use in many different public and private sector applications. The NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN is a unique element of GEOSS, providing key socioeconomic data and services that facilitate such real-world applications. SEDAC is currently contributing to phase 8 of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-8), which is testing new apps and tools for energy and disaster management applications.
Links between climate stress and political violence were the subject of a talk by CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy at an interdisciplinary workshop organized by the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate May 6 at Columbia University′s Morningside campus in New York City. Levy was one of 15 speakers from Columbia on topics such as hurricanes and droughts, disease transmission, and energy resilience. His presentation, “Extremes and Extremism: Why Climate Stress Increases Political Violence,” looked at how climate stress can trigger political instability and violence across linked systems and how efforts to manage risk may lead to more instability. He also discussed why some people persist in denying climate-security connections. A video of a longer version of the lecture, given at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver earlier this year, is now available online.
Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, has agreed to serve as one of two co-chairs of the North American Regional Assessment for the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) being developed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). GEO-6 will use a regional assessment approach to create a comprehensive picture of the environmental factors contributing to human well-being and to analyze policy options for achieving environmental objectives and goals. Together with co-chair Robert Corell, Levy will help coordinate the work of more than 40 experts on the North American assessment.
A wide range of visitors met with CIESIN staff in April. At the Columbia University Morningside campus April 13, associate directors Alex de Sherbinin and Greg Yetman and deputy director Marc Levy hosted Willie Schubert, program officer with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN). They discussed various resources useful for journalists, including Web technologies, data layers, and map tools available from CIESIN and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). On April 20, CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a visit by Joreg Mayer-Ries from the German Ministry of the Environment, organized by the Earth Institute. The meeting included discussions about sustainability policy and science in Germany and the United States and in context of the post-2015 development agenda. Both Mayer-Ries and Chen subsequently participated in the conference, "Measuring Sustainable Development: How Can Science Contribute to Realizing the SDGs?" at German House in New York City April 23–24.
Umar Serajuddin, Emi Suzuki, and Dereje Ketema Wolde from the Development Data Group (DDG) of the World Bank visited CIESIN at the Lamont campus April 22–23 to explore collaborative activities and access population data resources from the NASA SEDAC. Suzuki gave an informal presentation April 22 on some of the DDG′s current activities on subnational data development, poverty mapping, and sustainability indicators.
Two recent visits were arranged by the Alliance Program, the academic joint-venture between Columbia and three French institutions, the École Polytechnique (EP), Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University. Chen, Yetman, information scientist Xiaoshi Xing, and program manager Alex Fischer met with Mathieu Le Traon, EP vice president for international relations, and two colleagues April 24 on the Morningside campus. CIESIN has hosted interns from EP for more than six years. On April 28, CIESIN hosted a delegation of five experts from the EDF group in France, led by Bernard Salha, senior executive vice president and head of EDF Research and Development, to discuss areas of potential collaboration, especially those related to urban adaptation and mitigation in response to climate change.
CIESIN also gave a briefing April 28 for several students and two faculty members from the Global Health certificate program of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia′s Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH). And on April 30, CIESIN geospatial information specialist Malanding Jaiteh hosted a visit by Lucy Waruingi, executive director of the African Conservation Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the availability and application of biodiversity data and information.
For a workshop on implementing the sustainable development goals at Arizona State University in Tempe April 24–25, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy gave presentations on lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals experience and on the state of knowledge regarding how best to promote holistic governance. The workshop was sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and convened by professors Kenneth Abbott and Daniel Bodansky.
Due to scheduled network maintenance by NASA on Sunday, April 26, some elements of the SEDAC Web site may experience service interruptions between 1 pm and 7 pm US Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), with additional brief interruptions until 1 am EDT April 27. The maintenance work may affect access to the EarthData links at the top of the SEDAC Web pages, as well as the EarthData login service. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this NASA-wide network maintenance.
Representing CIESIN, Robert Downs, senior digital archivist, participated in the Big Data Regional Innovations Hubs Charrette for the Northeast region held in Boston April 17. The charrette—an intensive, one-day design and planning workshop—is one of four sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) around the United States. The Northeast charrette convened members of the data science research community and other stakeholders to initiate a regional consortium to develop a data innovation hub in the region. Columbia's Data Science Institute is playing a lead role in the initiative.
At the Nansen Initiative consultative committee meeting in Chateau de Bossey, Switzerland, April 16–17, Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of the CIESIN Science Applications Division, served as a member of the consultative committee, and associate research scientist Susana Adamo participated as an invited expert in the Central American regional consultation. The Nansen Initiative is an inter-governmental process that seeks to develop policy frameworks to protect displaced persons from disasters, recognizing that displacement from climate-related disasters is likely to grow in the future.
Earlier in the month, Adamo attended the expert group meeting, “Implications for the Global Research Agenda on Population and Development,” organized by the U.N. Population Division in New York April 10. The meeting, which featured a keynote speech by Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, discussed global research priorities on population and development over the next 15 years. Adamo participated in breakout groups on age structure and impacts on youth, age structure and impacts on aging, and sustainable urbanization. The meeting sought to identify key knowledge gaps, recommended next steps, and ways to implement research priorities.
A major new report, “Data for Development: A Needs Assessment for SDG Monitoring and Statistical Capacity,” was launched at the United Nations Foundation in Washington, DC, April 17. The report, jointly authored by staff from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Open Data Watch, CIESIN, the Paris21 Secretariat, Simon Fraser University, The World Bank, and UNESCO, is intended to advance discussions on the importance of strong statistical systems and monitoring capacity in implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the potential to mobilize the “data revolution” in support of sustainable development, and the need to clearly identify resource needs, areas of investment, and modernization approaches in formulating the post-2015 development agenda. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy and program manager Alex Fischer participated in the launch event, representing the CIESIN team that contributed to the report on the topic of geospatial and environmental data collection and SDG indicator development.
A meeting of experts, “Development, Technology and Policy in the Big Data Era,” was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 11, in conjunction with the NetMob 2015 conference. Participants, including CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy, developed ideas for how to promote the necessary intellectual, institutional, policy, and legal approaches needed to ensure that the ongoing “data revolution” benefits human development. The invitation-only meeting was organized by MIT Connection Science, the Data-Pop Alliance, The World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy participated in an invitation-only Climate Data Partnership workshop April 7 in Washington, DC. Organized by Forum One, the workshop brought together experts from government, academia, and private industry to discuss how to continue the momentum and collaboration around climate data innovators that was started by the White House Climate Data Initiative (CDI) in 2014. The CDI brings together open government data with expertise from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools at the local level, including citizen-science crowdsourcing applications and tools to optimize sustainable practices in agriculture. The workshop coincided with the launch of the human health theme of climate.data.gov, which features data, information, and decision tools designed to help citizens, businesses, non-governmental agencies, and governments better prepare for climate-related impacts on health.
Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, visited CIESIN at the Lamont campus March 30 to discuss potential areas of cooperation and collaboration on geospatial data and services. Later in the day, more than 100 faculty, staff members, students, and geospatial experts from around New York attended his talk, “Applied Geography for a Better World,” at the Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, moderated by CIESIN director Robert Chen. Dangermond, together with his wife, Laura Dangermond, received the prestigious Audubon Medal for Environmental Leadership at the annual Audubon Gala March 31 in New York City, honoring their achievements in technology and conservation innovation and their support of research institutions, schools, and non-profit organizations. Esri is the leading provider of geographic information system (GIS) software for a wide range of environmental and business applications. CIESIN manages the Esri site license at Columbia University and has utilized Esri software in research, education, and the development of geospatial data products and services for more than two decades.
CIESIN associate director Alex de Sherbinin and Erica Zell of Battelle Memorial Institute gave a presentation March 26 on work using remote sensing data to develop indicators of urban heat stress in New York City and Philadelphia. Their presentation to a New York City inter-agency working group on urban heat islands was one of the concluding events in an 18-month project funded by NASA in support of the U.S. National Climate Assessment. The project′s goal was to develop urban heat stress and urban heat island indicators using a combination of remote sensing and socioeconomic data to meet the needs of urban policymakers and other stakeholders. The following day, de Sherbinin and Zell also described their work for Earth Institute staff at a seminar hosted by CIESIN at the Lamont campus in Palisades, New York.
CIESIN senior research staff assistant Ilyun Koh demonstrates the SEDAC Population Estimation Service to attendees of the New York Hall of Science “Big Data Fest,” held March 28 in Queens, New York. In the background is senior research associate Meredith Golden.
The New York Hall of Science (NYSci) in Queens, New York, hosted a “Big Data Fest” at the museum from 11 am to 5 pm March 28, with hands-on, interactive data experiences, and demonstrations for kids of all ages. CIESIN director Robert Chen gave a public talk, “Can Big Data Help Save Our Planet?″ and demonstrated the SEDAC Population Estimation Service throughout the day. He was joined at the CIESIN exhibit table by senior digital archivist Robert Downs, senior research associate Meredith Golden, and senior research staff assistant Ilyun Koh, who showed users how to use the Climate and Health ANalysis for Global Education Viewer (CHANGE Viewer) and the National Priorities List Superfund Footprint Mapper. CIESIN is part of a team led by NYSci that is developing “Connected Worlds,” an interactive, immersive exhibit on sustainability being installed in the Great Hall, an iconic space from the 1964 World′s Fair under renovation in conjunction with NYSci's 50th anniversary.
Norfolk, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland, were the sites of several different meetings aimed at addressing user needs for earth observation data and improving data usability and quality. On March 23 in Norfolk, associate director for geospatial applications Greg Yetman attended the kickoff meeting of the eighth phase of the Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-8), an initiative of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to test and implement connections between geospatial data and services in support of user-driven information needs. Two mapping clients and the Population Estimation Service developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN will be used in AIP-8 to demonstrate the integration of population and remote sensing data for disaster response and other applications as part of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS).
Yetman and CIESIN director Robert Chen then participated in the 4th GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder Network workshop in Norfolk March 24-26. Yetman chaired a plenary session, “From Data to Knowledge Sharing,”and Chen co-chaired a breakout session, “Global and Regional Observation Networks Sustainability and Capacity Building.”
Also March 24-26, senior digital archivist Robert Downs attended the annual meeting of the Earth Science Data System Working Groups (ESDSWG) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. Downs helped present the results of the Open Source working group, which he co-chairs, and also presented the poster, “Data Lifecycle Recommendations for Improving the Usability of Data Quality Information for Earth Science Data″ in support of the Data Quality working group. He also co-authored posters on the identification, provenance, and preservation of earth science data.
CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in a meeting of the United States delegation to the Belmont Forum E-Infrastructures and Data Management Project March 17–18 in Tucson, Arizona. The Belmont Forum is an initiative by national scientific funding agencies to collaborate in addressing the challenges and opportunities of global environmental change. Chen is one of more than a dozen U.S.-based members contributing to phase 1 of the project, established in 2013 to develop proposals and plans for possible cyberinfrastructure investments and strategic science policies by the Belmont Forum members. The U.S. delegation reviewed a number of proposed collaborative research actions and discussed options for phase 2 of the project that will begin later in 2015.
March 19-20 in Washington, DC, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy attended a workshop sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), “Building Capacity in 21st Century Social Sciences.” The workshop brought together more than 30 invited experts to explore ideas for more effectively harnessing the power of the social sciences to help address high priority “grand challenges″ facing the country and the world. A key question addressed in the workshop was how the social science community can build capacity and organize itself to collectively tackle these challenges, working across disciplines and scales.
CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is a co-author of a new paper, “The Roads Ahead: Narratives for Shared Socioeconomic Pathways Describing World Futures in the 21st Century,” appearing in the journal Global Environmental Change. The paper presents qualitative descriptions of future societal development for each of the “shared socioeconomic pathways” (SSPs) that the scientific community has developed to support analysis of climate mitigation and adaptation. The five narratives in the paper describe plausible future changes in demographics, human development, economy, institutions, technology, and environment. The paper is an output of an international scenario process carried out under the auspices of the International Committee on New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS).
Alex de Sherbinin, associate director of science applications, is also a co-author of New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report Chapter 6: Indicators and Monitoring, appearing in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in February. The chapter builds on an approach laid out in the 2010 New York Panel on Climate Change report, examining how to establish a climate resiliency indicator and monitoring system for New York City that is more responsive to current and future climate change.
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