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Webinar Features New Superfund Mapping Service
Date: May 8, 2012

The new online mapping service, the National Priority List (NPL) Superfund Footprint Mapper, was featured as part of a Webinar sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Partnerships for Public Environmental Health (PEPH) on May 7. Participants numbered 158 attendees, more than 30 from federal agencies. Senior research associate Meredith Golden showcased the Mapper with assistance from geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn, who also helped develop the service. Golden highlighted data from several projects of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. These include the U.S. Census Grids and the Global Poverty Mapping Project. The NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper can display population and environmental characteristics for areas surrounding more than 1700 NPL Superfund sites. An archived recording of the Webinar will be available soon on the SRP Web site.

Integrating Earth Observing Systems the Focus of Geneva Meetings
Date: May 5, 2012

More than 100 experts on Earth observations gathered in Geneva April 30–May 4 to coordinate plans for integrating remote sensing and other environmental and socioeconomic data under the auspices of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). CIESIN director Robert Chen participated in the GEO Work Plan Symposium 2012, reporting on the efforts of the GEO Data Sharing Working Group to reduce the legal and institutional barriers to sharing data across the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) being developed by GEO member countries and other participating organizations. Chen is one of the co-chairs of the Working Group, representing the International Council for Science, and serves as task coordinator for the GEO work plan task on data sharing. CIESIN geographic information specialist Sneha Rao subsequently participated in the kickoff meeting for the fifth phase of the GEO Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP-5), held May 3-4. She presented CIESIN’s planned contributions to the pilot, emphasizing ways to integrate data on population, land use, hazards, and sustainability with Earth observations to support GEO's priority societal benefit areas such as disaster management, agriculture, and climate adaptation.

Enhanced Website on African Soils Launched
Date: April 17, 2012

A new and improved Web site and quarterly newsletter have been released by the Africa Soils Information Service (AfSIS). One important enhancement is a section on the homepage called "Data and Map Portal" that highlights the project's progress in sampling sentinel sites across the continent, creating the Africa Soil Profiles Database, carrying out diagnostic trials, and conducting critical analysis of the data. The subscription-based newsletter, which now offers a more reader-friendly layout, aims to keep interested recipients up to date on project activities and provide a behind-the-scenes look at some of the individuals involved in AfSIS field work. AfSIS is a collaboration between the Earth Institute and African scientists and institutions to develop detailed digital maps of soils in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa in support of sustainable agriculture. Development of the new outreach vehicles has been led by AfSIS team members Alison Rose, research manager at the Earth Institute's Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program; Sonya Ahamed, senior research associate at CIESIN; and Annie Gerard, media designer at CIESIN. To subscribe to the newsletter, go to the new AfSIS Web site.

2012 EPI Ranks the Environmental Performance of 132 Countries
Date: January 26, 2012

screen shot of Switzerland country profile from the 2012 EPI

Announced at the World Economic Forum held January 25–29 in Davos, Switzerland, the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, identifies Switzerland as first in addressing pollution control and natural resource management challenges. Iraq is ranked last. The EPI has been produced every two years since 2006. The 2012 EPI ranks 132 countries, using 22 indicators in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity, and forest management.

For the first time a complementary index showing country improvement from 2000 to 2010, the Pilot Trend Environmental Performance Index (Trend EPI), was released. Latvia was ranked number one in the Trend EPI, with Russia in last place. The U.S., which is 49th in the EPI, was just 77th in the Trend EPI, implying few recent gains in addressing environmental issues.

Data sets making up the EPI were contributed from the International Energy Agency, remote sensing research groups at Battelle and University of Maryland, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and other entities. Lack of data in certain areas—in particular, waste management, toxic exposures, agricultural sustainability and water resources—continue to limit the ability of the EPI to contribute towards the understanding necessary to develop policies for safeguarding the environment.

Project to Integrate Global Census and Environmental Data Launched
Date: October 6, 2011

logo for TerraPop project

The logo for Terra Populus: A Global Population/ Environment Data Network (TerraPop), which will integrate population census data from the past two centuries with environmental data. The project is led by University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center, with CIESIN as a key partner.

The National Science Foundation has made a major, $8 million, five-year award to a team led by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Population Center for a new project, Terra Populus: A Global Population / Environment Data Network (TerraPop). The goal of TerraPop is to integrate population census data from the past two centuries with global land cover, land use, and other environmental data, providing a unique data access and analysis system for improving understanding of the interactions between humans and the environment from local to global scales. CIESIN is a key partner in the project, contributing its expertise in integrating socioeconomic and environmental data. CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate research scientist Susana Adamo, and senior digital archivist Robert Downs participated in TerraPop’s kickoff meeting September 29-30 in Minneapolis.

As part of NSF’s Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network (DataNet), TerraPop will develop a sustainable digital archive for its data, accessible to researchers worldwide and building on the distributed capabilities of its partners. The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan is also a key contributor to the project. Other participants from the University of Minnesota include the Institute on the Environment, the University of Minnesota Library, and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering.

CIESIN Releases Major Spatial Population Data Collection
Date: September 30, 2011

Map showing global urban extents

Urbanization poses both challenges and opportunities for sustainable development and environmental management. Improved data on patterns of human settlement and trends in population can help researchers and policy makers better understand differences between urban and rural areas in terms of their impacts on the environment and vulnerability to environmental variability and change. The newly released Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project, Version 1 (GRUMPv1) data collection is a valuable resource both for researchers studying human-environment interactions and for applied users working to address critical environmental and societal issues.

Developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, GRUMPv1 consists of eight global data sets: population count grids, population density grids, urban settlement points, urban-extents grids, land/geographic unit area grids, national boundaries, national identifier grids, and coastlines. All grids are provided at a resolution of 30 arc-seconds (~1km), with population estimates normalized to the years 2000, 1995, and 1990. All eight data sets are available for download as global products, and the first five data sets are also available as continental, regional, and national subsets.

The population density and population count grids build on SEDAC’s Gridded Population of the World, Version 3 data set (GPWv3), which does not distinguish between urban and rural areas. GRUMPv1 identifies urban areas based in part on observations of lights at night collected by a series of Department of Defense meteorological satellites over several decades. The night-light data were carefully processed by the U.S. National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder, Colorado. CIESIN then used these and other supplementary data to develop an urban-rural “mask,” or urban extents grid, which identifies those areas of the Earth’s land surface that appear to be urbanized. GRUMPv1 also includes a geo-referenced database of urban settlements with populations greater than 5,000 persons, which may be downloaded in both tabular and shapefile formats.

'Eye on Earth' Summit Will Address Global Data Access Issues
Date: September 15, 2011

CIESIN is playing a leading role in the organization of the Eye on Earth Summit, to be held December 12–15 in Abu Dhabi. At the Summit global leaders, innovators, and decision-makers will focus on how to ensure effective access to the world’s expanding pool of environmental and societal data by all who need it. Facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) and hosted by Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Eye on Earth Summit will strengthen existing efforts and inspire a search for unified, global solutions to the issues that preclude access to data. Marc Levy, CIESIN deputy director, is co-chair of Working Group 2 on content and user needs, and Alex de Sherbinin, senior research associate, serves on Working Group 1 on policy and networking.

New Observing System Explored at Oxford Meeting
Date: September 13, 2011

CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin participated in a meeting organized by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) to design a new Global Integrated Observing Strategy. This meeting, held September 6–8 in Oxford, England, included many experts in Earth System Science modeling and ecological field research. As a representative of the social science data and observations community, de Sherbinin provided suggestions on how to design an observation system that will improve monitoring of coupled human-environment systems. The strategy will focus on under-observed regions in Africa and Asia.

Marc Levy Appointed to NRC Committee on Issues in Himalayan Region
Date: July 14, 2011

CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy has been appointed to the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Himalayan Glaciers, Climate Change, and Implications for Downstream Populations. The committee, which is chaired by Henry J. Vaux, Jr. of the University of California, Berkley, also includes former CIESIN research scientist Deborah Balk, currently of Baruch College of the City University of New York, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientist Ed Cook, and Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) scientist Drew Shindell. The committee will take stock of what is known regarding glacier melt in the Himalayas and the consequences for populations in the region, including possible security impacts. The committee’s first meeting was held July 11–12, at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, D.C.

New IUSSP Panel to Examine the Role of Population Dynamics in Climate Change
Date: July 6, 2011

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) has named CIESIN associate research scientist Susana Adamo to a new panel exploring the role of population dynamics in climate change. Adamo, a demographer originally from Argentina, will serve with population researchers Leiwen Jiang (China), Wolfgang Lutz (Austria), and panel chair Adrian Hayes (Australia). Through cross-disciplinary research, meetings, and other activities, the panel will aim to expand a network of population researchers working in the area of climate change, contribute to greater understanding of how population processes interact with climate change, and share findings with the research and policy making communities. In addition, panel members will examine conditions for such cross-disciplinary research and what this might mean for demographic training. The panel has been established through 2014.

Updated Map Viewer Enables Visualization of Socioeconomic and Earth Science Data
Date: June 23, 2011

TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer, a map viewer and standalone software application, has been updated for 2011 with the addition of several new SEDAC data sets, including climate change scenario data and indicator collections with hundreds of variables. TerraViva! contains map data and GIS functions in one package, compatible with the Microsoft Windows operating system. An excellent tool for educators, as well as for researchers and analysts working in a variety of disciplines, TerraViva! has a library of maps organized by theme and a built-in gazetteer, and can create dynamic color-coded maps and customizable maps and charts, among other features. It was produced through a collaboration between ISciences and the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. For more information or to order a free DVD, go to

Improving Global Landcover Mapping: International Workshops Explore Approaches
Date: June 21, 2011

Senior geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh participated recently in two international workshops at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, that focused on methodologies for producing landcover maps and efforts to enhance the quality of such maps. The first, “Characterizing and Validating Global Agricultural Landcover,” took place June 13–15 and was co-hosted by IIASA and the Consortium for Spatial Information (CSI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The second, “CalVal Workshop: Global Land Cover Validation and Accuracy Assessment for Land Cover Change and Area Estimates: Updates, Progress, Next Steps,” was held June 16–17 and organized by the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) panel of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) and the Working Group on Calibration and Validation (WGCV) of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).

The invitation-only workshops addressed an identified need for consistent specifications for landcover maps, and ultimately, the development of a body of global reference maps. Jaiteh contributed insights into what users of the data need, not just in terms of land cover mapping but also applications of the data products, in particular, where helping identify limitations of the data set may guide accurate uses.

SEDAC Data Featured via New Discovery Tool
Date: June 17, 2011

Gridded Population of the World (GPW), the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), and the Last of the Wild/Human Footprint collection are just a few of the many SEDAC data holdings that can now be found through Reverb—NASA's Next Generation Earth Science Discovery Tool. Reverb is an improved search interface for accessing the EOS ClearingHouse (ECHO), a metadata catalog of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) data and a registry for related data services. It aims to make it easier for users to discover relevant Earth science data and online visualization and analysis tools, leveraging an improved technology platform and modernized interface. The dynamic filtering feature lets users quickly sort through more than 2,400 data sets and thousands of individual images and files by specifying time periods and areas of interest, as well as search terms, platforms, instruments, field campaigns, processing levels, and science keywords.

SEDAC, the NASA Socioeconomic Economic Data and Applications Center, is operated by CIESIN as one of 12 NASA Earth Science Data Centers (ESDCs) in the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

Improving Data on Earthquake Exposure Subject of Team Meeting at CIESIN
Date: June 3, 2011

Team members meet in Palisades, New York

A team meeting of the Global Exposure Database for the Global Earthquake Model (GED4GEM) project at CIESIN offices in Palisades, New York, May 31.

The extensive death and damage caused by major earthquakes in China, Haiti, Pakistan, Chile, New Zealand, Japan, and other countries in recent years suggest a pressing need for better data concerning not only the likelihood of future large seismic events, but also the exposure of people and structures to potential earthquakes. As a component of the international Global Earthquake Model (GEM) initiative, a team led by the University of Pavia in Italy met May 31–June 3 at CIESIN’s offices in Palisades, New York to continue its efforts to develop a global exposure database incorporating data both on population distribution and on building types and fragility. A key focus of the meeting was the development and implementation of a flexible and scalable data model that can support interactions with other GEM components characterizing earthquake hazards and vulnerability. CIESIN director Robert Chen, associate directors Mark Becker and Sri Vinay, and staff members Greg Yetman and Branko Djapic participated in the team meeting, along with several experts from around the world.

Interactive 3-D Globe Visualizes the Distribution of Global Population
Date: May 16, 2011

Screenshot of World Population Globe

Screenshot of interactive 3-D World Population Globe showing year 2000 population distribution. CIESIN/Google.

Differences in population density around the world are dramatically illustrated in a new interactive 3-D globe developed by the Google Data Arts Team and available on Google's Chrome Experiment site. Based on the Gridded Population of the World version 3 (GPWv3) data set available from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center at CIESIN, the World Population Globe illustrates population distribution and changes between 1990, 1995, and 2000 on a 1-degree latitude-longitude grid. The globe was developed using WebGL, the Web-based Graphics Library, which enables 3-D graphics without the use of a plug-in. Browsers that currently support WebGL include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 4, and development releases of Safari and Opera. A compatible graphics card may also be needed.

World Population Figures May Top 10 Billion by the Year 2100
Date: May 7, 2011

According to the 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, the official United Nations population projections, the world population will reach 10.1 billion by the year 2100. These projections are prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The biggest increase is projected for the so-called high-fertility countries, with 39 of this group in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania, and four in Latin America. The United States is considered an intermediate-fertility country, and Canada is one of the low-fertility countries, as are many of the European countries

Among other findings of the report, life expectancy is projected to increase in all three groups of countries; and even small differences in fertility sustained over long periods will critically impact future population numbers.

New Data Set Reveals the Global Extent of Cropland and Pasture
Date: December 10, 2010

Map showing Global Distribution of Croplands in 2000

A new data set showing the extent of global agricultural activity, Global Agricultural Lands, has been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. Satellite data were combined with agricultural inventory data and compiled by Navin Ramankutty et al. (2008) to show the proportion of land area used as cropland (land used for the cultivation of food) and pasture (land used for grazing). The data set presents a snapshot of agricultural activity around the year 2000.

The data are packaged as one global grid or as a grid for each of the six populated continents, and are available in raster GeoTiff and GRID formats for download from the Web site. The data set can be applied in a number of ways to understand human-environment interactions, land use patterns, and potential threats to biodiversity.

New Report Marks Progress of Millennium Villages
Date: August 9, 2010

Graph showing crop yields at select Millennium Village sites

A new report highlights initial progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after three years of implementation across five of the initial Millennium Village sites. The report, Harvests of Development in Rural Africa, is based on results from the recently completed midterm surveys, focusing on sector-based gains (e.g., health, education, infrastructure, and gender) and site-specific gains in five out of twelve Millennium Village sites. These sites are located in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The report compares data collected in the third year of the project to baseline measurements taken when the project was initiated. CIESIN, in collaboration with the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program of the Earth Institute (EI) and EI site teams, aided in the development and implementation of field and data management systems to collect, enter, clean, and analyze MDG-related survey data. The objective of these systems is to inform sustainable development activities over the 10-year time frame of the project and support research on how to transfer successful lessons to other areas.

The Millennium Villages pursue an integrated approach to sustainable development aimed at achieving all of the MDGs within African villages. The MDGs are an internationally agreed-upon set of specific goals based on numerical benchmarks, and include targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, and environmental degradation.

Global Data Set Explores Indicators of Coastal Water Quality
Date: March 31, 2010

Map showing chlorophyl-a concentrations in coastal areas of Africa

Over the past few decades coastal waters throughout the world have received an increased influx of nutrients from land-based sources. The resulting change in water quality has many possible implications for coastal and marine ecosystems. In extreme cases eutrophication results, where excess nutrients in the water stimulate excessive plant growth. This can lead to hypoxia—oxygen-depleted “dead zones”—and harmful algal blooms.

Coastal water quality over time may be assessed by measuring chlorophyll concentrations as an indicator of algae biomass. A new global data set, Indicators of Coastal Water Quality, aims to identify near-coastal areas that have improving, declining, and stable chlorophyll concentrations in order to help identify areas that may need management intervention. The data set uses chlorophyll-a concentrations derived from NASA’s sea-viewing wide field-of-view sensor (SeaWiFS) to analyze trends over a ten year period (1998–2007). This data set is a result of a pilot effort, and the methodology will be further refined as part of a NASA Decisions feasibility project.

Population Estimation Service and New Mapping Tools Added to GPW Web Site
Date: February 12, 2010

The Web site for CIESIN’s flagship data product—Gridded Population of the World (GPW), now in its third version—has been enhanced with three new services and tools: the Population Estimation Service, a Web-based service for estimating population totals and related statistics within a user-defined region; and two mapping tools.

Because the Population Estimate Service is accessible through three standard protocols (the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web processing service (WPS) standard, a representational state transfer (REST) interface, and a simple object access protocol (SOAP) interface), it can accommodate a wide variety of map clients and tools and users can quickly obtain population estimates for specific areas without having to download and analyze large amounts of spatial data. Users submit polygons that define an area, then the service returns measures of population, land area, quality measures, and basic parametric statistics. These estimates are based on the gridded population data for 2005 from the GPW v3 data set developed by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

One of the new mapping tools also released, based on the technology used by Google Maps, demonstrates the Population Estimation Service. It lets users select an area of interest by drawing a polygon on the map and submit the request to the service, and it displays the results. The other tool is a basic mapper that provides previews of the GPW v3 data sets with an overlay of national boundaries, and lets users pan and zoom to an area of interest before downloading the data sets. For more complex visualization and overlay of other data sets, the stand-alone SEDAC Map Client is recommended.

New Interactive Mapper Previews Human Influence Data
Date: February 5, 2010

An interactive mapper has been released as part of the Last of the Wild Web site. This new mapper provides previews of the Last of the Wild, Version Two data sets. Using the mapper, users are now able to visualize the human influence index and the human footprint data sets, overlay national boundaries, or pan and zoom to an area of interest to gain a preliminary understanding about the data sets before downloading them. The mapper was developed using the open source Open Layers client technology with Geoserver backend.

For more advanced visualization and overlay with other related data sets, users may turn to the stand-alone SEDAC Map Client, which is offered via CIESIN’s World Data Center for Human Interactions in the Environment Web site. The Last of The Wild, Version Two data sets depict the extent of human influence on terrestrial ecosystems, using data sets compiled on or around the year 2000.

2010 Index Rates How Close a Country is to Environmental Benchmarks
Date: January 28, 2010

Global map showing overall Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 163 countries on environmental performance, has been released at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 in Davos, Switzerland. The Index, produced every two years since 2006 by researchers at CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy, is based on twenty-five indicators grouped within ten core policy categories—including environmental health, air quality, water resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change—in the context of two objectives: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The EPI’s proximity-to-target approach, in which each country’s performance is measured against clearly defined targets, enables comparisons among countries with very different characteristics.

Although some rankings have changed dramatically—the U.S. dropped from 39th to 61st place since the 2008 index, for example—so too have the methodologies and data. “A better focus is the comprehensive country profiles, which present a measurement across the different environmental indicators,” says CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, a co-author on the report. These profiles, designed by CIESIN research associate Valentina Mara in conjunction with the Yale team, show a country’s scores for the indicators, policy categories, and objectives. Drilling down here, de Sherbinin points out, can help decision makers identify the needed focus of attention for a particular country. Geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh, CIESIN deputy director and EPI project leader Marc Levy, and senior research staff assistant Paola Kim were also part of the CIESIN team.

Analysis shows that income is a major factor in high environmental performance, but that policy choices may trump economic capacities. For example, the differences between neighboring countries Chile (ranked 16th) and Argentina (70th), or between Malaysia (55th) and Thailand (68th), have a lot to do with different approaches to environmental policy and governance. The biggest changes this year were seen in the scores for air pollution and effects on ecosystems, and a new indicator, water scarcity, was added. The indicators were drawn from international organizations such as the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Some of the data sets are drawn from government reporting that is not subject to external validation, and incomplete data have resulted in incomplete representation of countries. The report calls for greater investment by the world community in environmental monitoring, and for data sharing and transparency on the part of national governments.

The First Global Assessment of Light Pollution Impact on Protected Areas
Date: January 26, 2010

Photograph from satellite data showing nighttime lights throughout Europe.

Nighttime satellite image of Europe, derived from U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS).

A new report conducted by Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) relates findings from the first-ever global assessment of light pollution and related human impacts on protected areas. The assessment, a contribution to the Dark Skies Advisory Group of the Cities and Protected Areas Specialist Group of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, uses satellite observations of artificial night lighting derived from the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS).

The report highlights adverse effects on ecosystems or species that are sensitive to light, providing a list of countries and biomes where protected areas are particularly affected by light pollution—and also, presumably, by human activities. First results of the analysis indicate that the most affected regions are in Europe and Asia Minor, the Caribbean, and South and East Asia, as well as in the eastern part of the United States. Another finding, revealed by introducing aggregated data on biomes, demonstrates that among protected areas, those located in temperate broadleaf and mixed forests suffer the greatest impact from light pollution. The report communicates groundbreaking analysis about the impacts of light pollution to the scientific community as well as raises awareness of the general public about the seriousness and environmental ramifications of light pollution.

Map Viewer Tutorial Now Available on YouTube Web Site
Date: January 8, 2010

TerraViva! SEDAC Viewer is a map viewer and standalone software application that uses a powerful data-viewing engine and tools to enable the visualization and integration of hundreds of socioeconomic and environmental variables and layers, including a range of satellite-based data. A three-part tutorial that explains how to use TerraViva! is now available through the YouTube Web site. The tutorial was produced by senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin and senior media designer Al Pinto, under the auspices of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN.

New Grid-Based Cartograms Build on CIESIN Population Data
Date: October 4, 2009

The Gridded Population of the World (GPW) version 3 data set available through the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center operated by CIESIN is the basis for a new set of grid-based population cartograms for most countries of the world recently released on the interactive Worldmapper Web site. Worldmapper is a collection of cartograms in which a particular thematic variable is substituted for the land area of a map, effectively re-sizing the map. In the case of the population grids, each cartogram provides a distinctive visualization of the internal population variations within a country or region. More-populated areas appear inflated whereas less-populated areas are less prominent. The cartograms have been made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

Human Biomes Defined, Data Available, on New Web Site
Date: October 1, 2009

Anthropogenic biomes, also known as anthromes” or human biomes,” describe the terrestrial biosphere in its contemporary, human-altered form using global ecosystem units defined by patterns of sustained direct human interaction. In a paper presented in the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ellis and Ramankutty (2008) delineate 21 anthropogenic biomes based on population density, land use, biota, climate, terrain and geology. The anthropogenic biomes are further grouped into six major categories: dense settlements, villages, croplands, rangeland, forested, and wildlands. A new Web site, “Anthropogenic Biomes (version one),” provides access to the spatial data sets described in the paper. Available in raster GeoTiff and GRID formats, the data may be downloaded as one global grid or a grid for each of the six populated continents. The methodology involves a multi-stage procedure where “anthropogenic” cells are first separated from “wild” cells based on presence of population, crops, or pastures. A detailed description of the methods utilized to produce the data, as well as research results, may be downloaded from the Web site.

Atlas of Livestock Production and Health Statistics Now Released
Date: June 25, 2009

GLiPHA, the Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas, has been publically released. GLiPHA is an interactive, electronic atlas containing global animal production and health statistics. Sub-national statistics relating to the livestock sector can be viewed cartographically, against a back-drop of selected maps, such as livestock densities, land-use, and topography. Data may also be displayed and exported as tables and charts. The objectives of GLiPHA are to facilitate access to livestock sector information for analysis and informed decision making, and to increase awareness of sector-related social, health and environmental issues. GLiPHA draws on data managed within the Global Livestock Impact Mapping (GLIMS), a global, sub-national data warehouse containing a multitude of livestock-sector related information.

Key Inputs from SEDAC’s GPW Used in New EDGAR Release
Date: June 25, 2009

SEDAC’s Gridded Population of the World (GPW) version 3 grids and population data are used as key inputs into the gridded products of version 4 of the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) released on May 25 by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. In EDGAR v4.0, emissions for 1970-2005 are spatially allocated on detailed geospatial grids (0.1 degree) using the exact location of energy and manufacturing facilities, road networks, shipping routes, human and animal population density and agricultural land use. GPW version 3 grids were used to ensure consistency between the country totals and the gridded datasets. EDGAR v4.0 data are available for download at no charge at

NASA and USGS Announce Availability of Global Land Survey 2005 Data
Date: June 24, 2009

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are pleased to announce that the Global Land Survey (GLS) 2005 data set is now essentially complete, and is available for download from USGS EROS. The GLS2005 offers global, orthorectified Landsat coverage centered on 2005, designed to support long-term mapping of land cover and vegetation trends.

The data set is composed of a single leaf-on, cloud-minimized image for each WRS-2 path/row location. In cases where Landsat-7 imagery have been used, multiple images have been merged and radiometrically adjusted to minimize gaps caused by the failure of the Landsat-7 scan-line corrector. Images were selected to optimize seasonal timing (vegetation greenness derived from AVHRR) and to minimize cloud cover. These data, together with those from the earlier GLS epochs (1975, 1990, 2000) offer a unique resource for assessing changes in the terrestrial environment during the past 35 years.

Currently about 140 images remain to be added to the GLS2005 data set, primarily over Indonesia and Brazil. As these images are processed they will be available through the GLOVIS interface. For more information on the Global Land Survey project or to download data, go to the GLS Web site.

New Report Says Climate Change May Cause Human Population Migrations
Date: June 10, 2009

The map depicts glaciers in the Himalayas and the major rivers that flow from them.

The map depicts glaciers (white with blue border) in the Himalayas and the major rivers that flow from them. The rivers that drain these mountains move through some of the most populous areas in the world, yet the glaciers that feed the rivers are in retreat.

A new report says climate change may cause vast human migrations on an order not previously experienced. The report, In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Displacement and Migration, was written by researchers at CIESIN, the United Nations University, and CARE International. Drawing on empirical evidence from a new survey of every continent, with original maps created by CIESIN that pinpoint potential locations of critical displacements, the report explores how climate change is already causing people to leave their homes, and details some of the specific ways displacement may occur over the next decades. For example, the report says, melting glaciers will negatively affect agricultural systems throughout Asia and contribute to the risk of flooding. Natural disasters will continue to cause short-term migration, while the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods—such as subsistence herding, farming, and fishing—will cause long-term migration. Developing countries will be most vulnerable to migration and displacement, with less capacity to implement adaptation measures. A potential downward spiral from resulting ecological degradation and breakdown of social structures could ensue, leading to political instability which would further exacerbate population displacement.

The report calls for seeing climate-related migration and displacement as global in nature, not simply isolated local crises. It aims to inform critical policy making by presenting a comprehensive discussion of the linkages between environmental change, displacement, and migration.

Integrated Assessment of Climate Change Web Site Now Released
Date: May 7, 2009

A new Web site that provides access to data and information on climate change has been released by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN. The Web site, Integrated Assessment of Climate Change: Model Visualization and Analysis (MVA), aims to support researchers and policy analysts who model and assess the associated impacts and policy implications of global climate and environmental change. The Web site also provides access to relevant geospatial data and maps, including socioeconomic data and services available via the section of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Socioeconomic Data Distribution Center (DDC) that is operated by SEDAC.

New NRMI Conservation Data Added to SEDAC Map Client
Date: March 26, 2009

In support of CIESIN’s Natural Resource Management Index (NRMI) contribution to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), CIESIN’s SEDAC program has added to its Internet map client the protected areas “mask” and the World Wildlife Fund terrestrial biome data upon which the 2008 NRMI ecoregion protection indicator was calculated.

This tool will help countries assess their protected area coverage by biome in order to better understand their ecoregion protection indicator score. Further information on the methodology used to calculate the ecoregion protection indicator is available from the MCC/NRMI Web site.

New Global Digital Soil Map to Address Critical Gap in Knowledge for Improved Crop Production
Date: February 17, 2009

A major initiative for developing and disseminating accurate digital information about soils in countries throughout the world was announced today. CIESIN’s role in this initiative will be to work with international partners to integrate and deliver soils data for the global database using state-of-the-art information and data management technologies.

The global digital soil map,, aims to provide farmers, policy makers, and scientists with critical information on how to address declining soil fertility and improve soil management for better crop productivity. By expanding a spatial database of soil properties, will leverage work begun recently by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) on the first-ever, detailed digital map of soil in 42 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. is being funded in part by the $18 million grant to create AfSIS, which was awarded to International Centre for Tropical Agriculture-Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute (CIAT-TSBF) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). An international consortium led by ISRIC-World Soil Information, based in the Netherlands, and including the Earth Institute of Columbia University will raise further funds and enhance the methodology for the map.

Unlike the existing global soil map, based on outdated data and difficult for non-soil scientists to interpret , will leverage contemporary technological advances to more accurately collect soil data, predict soil conditions, and provide usable information for applied users. It will be made freely available online and through cost-effective media, and will utilize innovative new sources of soil information.

Database on Impacts Associated with Observed Changes in Climate Now Available
Date: February 6, 2009

World map showing changes in physical and biological systems and surface temperature in relation to temperature changes over the period from 1970-2004

The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2008 concluded that it is likely that anthropogenic warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. The database underlying this conclusion has now been made available through the IPCC Data Distribution Center (DDC), which is collaboratively operated by the British Atmospheric Data Centre in the United Kingdom, the Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) in Germany, and CIESIN.

The Observed Climate Change Impacts Database was developed by an international team of scientists led by Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The database collates information from a wide range of scientific studies that document significant environmental changes such as diminishing glaciers, melting permafrost, earlier snowmelt, lake and river warming, and coastal erosion as well as changes in biological systems such as earlier leaf unfolding and blooming dates and alterations in species interactions. Studies included in the database were based on observational data for at least 20 years between 1970 and 2004, and in some cases drew on more than 35 years of data. In a paper published in Nature in 2008, Dr. Rosenzweig and her colleagues demonstrated that the patterns of observed changes documented in the database and observed regional changes in temperature cannot be explained by natural variations alone. They therefore concluded that anthropogenic climate change is already having significant impacts on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents.

The DDC was established in 1997 to support the data needs of the IPCC assessments. CIESIN began supporting the DDC in 2003 as part of its NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), focusing on socioeconomic data and scenarios needed for the integrated assessment of climate change impacts.

PBL Launches Global Roads Database (GRIP)
Date: January 28, 2009

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) has launched a global roads database, the Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP). GRIP version 1 is the first attempt by PBL to create a new (public domain) global roads database classified along the UNSDI-T datamodel domain of UNJLC. The data is aimed at a 250k-1M scale and will be used in PBL's global environmental assessment models. Commercial data was mainly used for Western Europe and India, the rest was collected from other publicly available sources.

PBL is investigating the option to make this part available under a BY-SA Creative Commons license to anyone who contributes to the GRIP database.

ENTRI Provides Regularly Updated Tool for Searching COP Decisions
Date: January 27, 2009

Responding to the need for tracking the many decision documents approved by the Parties to environmental treaties, the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has produced a Conference of Party (COP) Decision Search Tool as an add-on to its Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) project. The search tool is powered by a Google appliance, and includes controlled “metadata” (coding of each decision document) to enable powerful advanced searches by date, COP number, or title of document. All decision documents are harvested and converted to PDF for consistency, but for reference purposes the original URL is listed. The tool currently includes decision documents from the first to the most recent COPs for ten agreements: Basel (transboundary wastes), CBD, CITES, CMS, FCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, Ramsar, UNCCD, and Vienna (ozone). Users can search across all ten or limit the search to subsets.

Species Data Reveal Areas of High Biodiversity in the Americas, the World
Date: September 12, 2008

image of amphibian from new species distribution library

Human activities have contributed to habitat loss for a large number of species worldwide. In response, species mapping has become an increasingly important tool for conservation priority-setting and ecological modeling. Now a consortium of conservation organizations—NatureServe, IUCN, Conservation International, and World Wildlife Fund-USA—has developed a vast digital library of the distribution of birds and mammals of the Americas and amphibians of the world. To make these data more useful for a wide range of applications, CIESIN’s NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) converted the entire collection of shapefiles to raster format at 1-km grid-cell resolution. Basic or advanced searches may be undertaken for species in each of the three classes—amphibia, aves, and mammalia—using any number of criteria including class, family, genus, and endangerment status according to the IUCN Red List. Users may download the search results as zip files, with a readme file explaining how to use the data and a full metadata record of each of the data sets bundled in the file. The Web site provides the original vector data (in ESRI shape file format), the original grids (a raster version of the vector data), and presence grids (raster data depicting the presence or absence for each species). The grids are distributed in GeoTIFF format. In addition, SEDAC has created “richness grids” that describe the number of species by class and family found in each grid cell. Data sets include:

  • 5,810 species of amphibia
  • 4,166 species of aves
  • 1,716 species of mammalia

Users may download maps showing species richness at continental and global scales for each of the three classes.

Updated Human Footprint Data Now Available
Date: March 17, 2008

CIESIN has released an updated version of The Human Footprint, a data set that aims to measure the extent of human influence on the Earth’s surface. First produced in 2002 by CIESIN with the Wildlife Conservation Society, this new version of The Human Footprint uses updated data on human population density, land transformation, human access, electrical power infrastructure, and settlements. Urban boundaries are drawn from CIESIN’s urban population data (Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP)), which is more recent (circa 2000) and is also a better representation of urban boundaries than what was used in the first version. The population density data (Global Population of the World (GPWv3)), produced by the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN, also have a number of improvements over the data used in the earlier version. The roads data are more complete, particularly concerning roads in Africa and Latin America; a greater number of navigable rivers is included; and more extensive land cover data are used.

Data available for download include the Human Influence Index, Human Footprint, and the Last of the Wild data sets.

New Study in Nature Maps Global Hotspots of Emerging Diseases
Date: February 21, 2008

A new study appearing in the Feb. 21 issue of Nature presents the first scientific evidence that emerging diseases are on the rise and that zoonoses—diseases from wildlife—are the prime threat, due to encroachment of wild areas by human population growth and related impacts. CIESIN’s deputy director Marc Levy is a co-author of the study, “Global Trends in Emerging Infectious Diseases,” which built a predictive model by correlating population data from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) operated by CIESIN with analysis of emerging diseases from 1940 to 2004. “Overlaying maps of where the zoonotic diseases have occurred, with population maps, allows a pattern of relationships to emerge,” says Levy, “and is a first step in prediction.” The result is a global map of emerging disease “hotspots” that shows a pattern of growing vulnerability to new diseases in rich as well as poor nations, with implications for further prediction and prevention. The study also offers insights into the role of conservation in preventing new diseases and the importance of reviewing approaches to allocation of public health resources in order to reduce risk.

In addition to Levy and former CIESIN colleagues Deborah Balk and Adam Storeygard, now at Baruch College, CUNY and Brown University, respectively, the international research team included scientists from the Consortium Conservation Medicine (CCM) Wildlife Trust New York; The University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology; and The Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society of London, where lead author of the study and former Earth Institute fellow Kate Jones is now senior fellow. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. More about the study and NPR Interview: "Study Finds Emerging Diseases on Rise

2008 Environmental Performance Index Released
Date: January 23, 2008

The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was the venue for the release today of the 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), co-authored by CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Last released in 2006, the EPI ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators across six policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change. Each indicator in the EPI measures how close each country comes to broadly-accepted targets, on a 0–100 scale. As a quantitative gauge of environmental outcomes, the Index is meant to provide a powerful tool for improving policymaking by shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.

The 2008 EPI ranks Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Costa Rica as the top five overall countries. Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger occupy the bottom five positions. The U.S. is ranked 39th, lower than most industrial countries.

The Index also provides “peer group” rankings for each country, comparing performance of countries facing similar environmental challenges. These benchmarks allow easy tracking of leaders and laggards on an issue-by-issue and aggregate basis. The data also support efforts to identify “best practices” in the environmental realm.

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