Emergency App

Posted by – May 17, 2015

The American Red Cross has released a smartphone app that helps you check on family and friends during emergencies, appropriately called Emergency:

The app is easy to use and has options for monitoring hazards in your area and for pinging loved ones that may be in the vicinity of an emergency. Load it on your kids’ phones so you can quickly check on them, too. Available for free download (Android or iOS) – ahora disponible en español también!

-ddw

@CraigatFEMA

Posted by – May 4, 2015

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has his own Twitter stream, @CraigatFEMA, and often tweets useful information on disasters, conferences, and policies. One of his most recent was to highlight a map of the potential for wildland fires across the US:
Map of fire potential for U.S.
-ddw

Visualizing Hurricane Track Uncertainty

Posted by – April 19, 2015

The National Hurricane Center has steadily improved hurricane models over the past 25 years, as shown in this animation of uncertainties in the 48-hour predicted location of a hurricane’s center (mp4 video):
NHC 48 hr forecast uncertainty

NHC is also prototyping
storm surge mapping tools and conducting in-house (non-public) experiments with extending tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts to seven days from the current five-day period; creating track and intensity forecasts for disturbances with a high chance of formation; and issuing tropical cyclone watches and warnings before cyclones form.

-ddw

P.S. Although I like seeing how uncertainty declines with time, I don’t think the animation adds much to this over the simple contours labelled by year.

Virtual Trek

Posted by – March 14, 2015

This week Google announced it had collaborated with accomplished Nepalese mountaineer Apa Sherpa to create a virtual trek through Nepal using Google Map’s Streetview. Apa Sherpa, who has summited Mt. Everest 20 times, spent 10 days with Google last year to capture the images, which are now available on Google Maps. The effect is stunning, allowing you to virtually hike through valleys and towns near Mt. Everest, such as Thame, Khumjung and Phortse.

And for those of you hoping for a virtual tour of that other Trek, you might try here or here.

-ddw

For Some, the Tribe is More Important Than the Truth

Posted by – February 22, 2015

There are large differences between how scientists and the public perceive evolution, climate change, vaccination, and more. I have usually attributed this to scientists’ failure to communicate as much as the public’s misunderstanding, but Joel Achenbach’s recent WaPo editorial suggests the real reason is that people tend to choose positions that best align with their social group, regardless of scientific evidence. Achenbach cites a research paper by Dan Kahan, whose abstract states:

Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled. Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. An empirical study found no support for this position. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

Or, as former USGS head and current editor of the journal Science, Marcia McNutt, put it, it’s as if:

We’ve never left high school. People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science.

This suggests that, in addition to stating the evidence, scientists might also try pointing out how fellow group members accept the conclusions of scientific research – e.g., noting that Pope Francis has no problem with evolution.

-ddw

Bitter Christmas

Posted by – December 20, 2014

The HappyPlace blog at eCards provides the Christmas Graphic for 2014:

Just Who is This Guy?

And remember: always leave cookies out for the stoned burgler; the crumbs provide DNA evidence. Want more? Well, here are xAnalytica’s Christmas Graphics from previous years:

Happy Holidays!

-ddw

Best Map App

Posted by – November 16, 2014

Google Maps is still the gold standard for smartphone mapping apps, according to NY Times columnist Molly Woods, who recently compared three smartphone mapping applications – Google Maps (iOS, Android), Apple Maps (iOS), and Here (WinPhone, Nokia). Apple Maps has made progress since its failed 2012 debut, but, according to Woods, Google Maps is still the winner. All of these provide some version of turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, flyover and vector-based maps; given that they are all free, I’d suggest you try out whichever one is available for your smartphone to see which is best for you. My choice is None of the Above: I’ve used Scout, (free, iOS) for the past two years because I like its interface and its ability to share my ETA along with a link to a map of my current location. And, if you subscribe, you can download the OpenStreetMaps region of your choice and use Scout off-line – a real plus if you are out of cell range or during disaster responses.

-ddw

Facebook and Disasters

Posted by – October 22, 2014

Facebook's Safety Check
In a Oct 15 blog posting, Facebook introduced a new Safety Check feature that asks Facebook users within the vicinity of a disaster if they’re safe. Users that answer “I’m Safe” will have an automatically generated News Feed story posted to their Wall for their friends to see. This is one more way – in addition to the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” site – to let friends and family know you’re OK in the event of a disaster. (Via Emergency Management)

-ddw

Data the Best Preparation for Disasters?

Posted by – October 14, 2014

At a recent GovTech forum in Los Angeles, experts from the USGS, academia, and industry assessed that open data and analytics have become fundamental tools in disaster preparedness – but public officials aren’t using them enough. Citing examples of seismological data, post-Katrina New Orleans, and FEMA’s Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard, the experts illustrated the value of data and analytics to protecting lives and property. They offered that the primary reasons to defer investment in emergency management tools and infrastructure stems from the mistaken beliefs that such expenditures are unjustifiable because they don’t serve immediate needs and large emergencies are infrequent.

-ddw

Fooled

Posted by – June 17, 2014

One website I visit repeatedly is the New York Times’ Upshot blog, edited by David Leonhardt, because I find its graphical analysis of politics and economics help me think and understand. For example, they take a look at the monthly employment statistics that are often cited as economic indicators, and show that the typical level of randomness in monthly jobs numbers masks the underlying trend. They illustrate this using an animated simulation of random errors added to an average or a trend – i.e., a Monte Carlo simulation of jobs numbers – showing how easy it is to be fooled by randomness. The Upshot’s interactive forecasting model of the upcoming Senatorial elections, created by Amanda Cox and Josh Katz, is also worth a look.

Monte Carlo Simulation of Jobs data
-ddw