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!
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.