GIS and Remote Sensing in Environmental Risk Assessment

GIS and Remote Sensing in Environmental Risk Assessment

X. Mara Chen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch261
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The existence, well-being, and sustainable development of the global economy hinges upon the state of the earth’s environment. Effective environmental risk assessment and management issues have become increasingly important. With the ever-growing global population and expanding economic development, we consume more natural resources, produce more waste, and develop more areas into the regions that are prone to environmental risks. Although humans have interacted with the environment for thousands of years, environmental risk assessment and management is only a recent research undertaking. As the industrialization has made the human-environment interactions more dynamic and complex, the increased environmental risks have propelled and compelled people to use technologies for identifying and solving problems. The earliest global environmental applications of remote sensing and GIS technologies began in the 1960s, particularly marked by the successful launch of the TIROS- 1, the first meteorological satellite, and the development of computer-based geographic information systems (GIS). The story Silent Spring (Carson, 1962) awoke the public’s environmental consciousness and promoted the public demands for governments to set up environmental protection policies and research priorities. The birth of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 set the stage for modern environment risk assessment. The launch of the LANDSAT program in 1972 created a new way for monitoring global land use and land cover changes (Foley, 1999; Goward, Masek, Williams, Irons, & Thompson, 2001).
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Current State

Effective environmental risk assessment and management is a complex process (Figure 1). The success of the process depends upon the prerequisite steps of comprehensive data collection, data integration, and analysis. Remote sensing is very critical in capturing the dynamic and vicissitudinary nature of hazards. The essential environmental risk assessment database must encompass the measurements and information on hazard types, occurrence probability and frequency, intensity and magnitude, and their proximity to the human environment. Remote sensing technology offers spatial, spectral, and temporal monitoring functionalities to fully measure these environmental variables.

Figure 1.

Flowchart of GIS and remote sensing in environmental risk assessment and management


Key Terms in this Chapter

Remote Sensing: The technology of obtaining, analyzing, and displaying the information about an object or a phenomenon through remote detection of its reflected and emitted electromagnetic energy. The term “remote sensing” was first used in the United States in the 1950s by Ms. Evelyn Pruitt of the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

Human Environment: The complete continuum of matter and conditions that surround human and human society. The state of the earth’s environment dictates the existence, safety, and health conditions of human and is affected by the interactions between human and the natural environment.

Risk Management: The responding practices to better mitigate hazards or recover from any associated adversary impact. Typically, effective risk management includes pre-disaster mitigation planning by means of insurance, land use regulation, and technology; rapid and effective emergency responses during the emergency; post-disaster recovery and rebuilding management; and increased public awareness education.

Risk & Vulnerability: Risk is the possibility for human to suffer the loss and/or injury (physical, social, economic, property) from hazards. Vulnerability is an area’s susceptibility to damage and degradation. Risk and vulnerability often occur side by side.

Risk Assessment: A process to identify hazard types, their intensities/magnitudes, occurring probabilities, and the associated consequences of impact.

GIS: A digital-based data storage, data manipulation and analysis, and visualization system and science, consisting of hardware, software, and organization structure. The modern GIS began in the 1960s, and it has evolved into a maturing science discipline. GIS was an acronym for geographic information systems, but was first used to represent geographic information science in 1992 by Michael F. Goodchild.

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