Nature has a special issue on Earth monitoring out tonight.
Nearly fifty years ago —things were up and running by March 1958 — Charles Keeling and colleagues began a series of measurements of atmospheric CO2 on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The results, made graphic in the jagged ‘Keeling curve’ running across this week’s cover, made the world take notice — eventually. The Mauna Loa measurements constitute the longest continuous record of atmospheric CO2 in the world. The steady rise in CO2 that they record now forms the accepted backdrop to today’s climate science and economic and political decision making. As well as being an important resource in itself, the Mauna Loa record highlights the vital importance of Earth monitoring programmes. The fiftieth anniversary of the start of this work is marked in this issue by News Features and other pieces on the Earth monitoring being done today, historical pieces on the Mauna Loa data and more.
I’ve a long futuristic article in the special looking at how close we might be to a totally monitored Earth by 2025: Earth Monitoring: The planetary panopticon
Nature itself has an great editorial — Patching together a world view — which provides a great big picture view, that I’d have struggled to write, so kudos to my colleagues who did such a good job of capturing succintly such a vast topic.
Alex Witze then contrasts my upbeat forecast with the lack of leadership of, and the disarray in, the US’s current Earth monitoring programmes — Earth Observation: Not enough eyes on the prize.
And the journalistic content doesn’t stop there: there are also features on:
Earth Monitoring: Observing the ocean from within
Earth Monitoring: The crucial measurement
And to finish it all off there are two Commentaries by scientists
Earth monitoring: Cinderella science
Earth monitoring: Vigilance is not enough
And an online version of all is here, including a timeline of Earth monitoring.
The UK National Institute for Environmental eScience (NIEeS) recently organized a scientific workshop at Cambridge University on environmental research applications of Google Earth and other virtual globes; some of the presentations are now available online here.
Nature recently published an Editorial “Millennium development holes” on problems with the underlying data used to assess progress to the goals.
Every year, the UN rolls out reports with slick graphics, seemingly noting with precise scientific precision progress towards the goals. But the reports mask the fact that the quality of most of the underlying data sets is far from adequate. Moreover, the indicators often combine very different types of data, making aggregation and analysis of the deficient data even more complicated.
There are decent data for just a handful of indicators, such as child mortality, but for most of the 163 developing countries, many indicators do not even have two data points for the period 1990â€“2006. And few developing countries have any data for around 1990, the baseline year. It is impossible to estimate progress for most of the indicators over less than five years, and sparse poverty data can only be reliably compared over decades.
Meanwhile, here are links to a few of my recent articles:
Barely a month after Google Earth made the front cover of Nature, computing is back on the cover again. Tomorrowâ€™s issue contains a big special on the future of scientific computing. All the articles are free, thanks to sponsorship from Microsoft; the special was produced in conjunction with the 2020 report published today by an international group of experts convened by Microsoft. The special is, however, of course completely editorially-independent of Microsoft
The special, by journalists and top computing experts, looks at some of the key emerging technologies and concepts that look set to have a major impact on scientific computing by 2020. Iâ€™ve a three pager on â€œsensor websâ€ â€“ â€œ2020 computing: Everything, everywhereâ€ — in it; there is also a short pop-up box — “Batteries not included” — on the problems of powering these small remote devices.