The increasing availability of accessible geospatial data with a turnaround time of days or hours provides unique opportunities for responders to better plan responses to crises, and to inform victims, friends, and relatives of local crisis conditions. However, this raw data is not readily interpretable by the general public.

The Crisis Mapping Toolkit (CMT) is a collection of tools for processing geospatial data (images, satellite data, etc.) into cartographic products that improve understanding of large-scale crises such as natural disasters. The cartographic products produced by CMT include flood inundation maps, maps of damaged or destroyed structures, forest fire maps, population density estimates, etc. CMT is designed to rapidly process large-scale data using Google Earth Engine and other geospatial data systems. CMT is designed to help people respond more quickly and effectively to disasters by improving damage assessment, response planning, situational awareness, and communication of timecritical information.

CMT is composed of the following modules:

  • Crisis Detection Tools: Tools for automatically detecting and mapping areas of crisis. The Crisis Detection Tools are designed to detect and model multiple forms of disasters, including floods, droughts, forest fires, damaged structures (from earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), population displacement, and more general forms of environmental change. For each area of interest, the tools implement a suite of algorithms that can be individually selected (depending on the problem domain) or used together. The Crisis Detection Tools primarily process remote sensing data, including MODIS, Landsat, Synthetic Aperture Radar (RADARSAT, TerraSAR-X, UAVSAR, etc.), AMSR-E, TRMM, and LIDAR point cloud data. The Crisis Mapping Tools perform computeintensive image processing using Google Earth Engine.
  • Data Import Tools: Tools for transforming and adjusting multiple data sources for use by the CMT. The Data Import Tools convert the raw imagery data sources into a format that can be imported into Google Earth Engine. They also read and import nongeospatial data for use in crisis response, such as river gauge levels, population data, seismometer readers, weather data, published warnings and alerts, etc.
  • Visualization and Publication Tools: Tools to visualize and publish geospatial imagery. These tools allow the user to visualize the inputs, outputs, and intermediate processing steps of the Crisis Detection Tools, both for testing and evaluating algorithms and for the use of crisis responders and victims. They also allow users to release crisis response data to online mapping services, such as the Google Maps platform.
  • Scripting Tools: Tools to interface with the rest of the CMT via scripts. The scripting tools allow users to develop automated or semi-automated tool chains to process data quickly in the event of a crisis.

This work was done by Brian Coltin, Scott McMichael, Trey Smith, and Terrence Fong of Ames Research Center. This software is available for use. To request a copy, please visit https://software.nasa.gov/software/ARC-17472-1 .

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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