December 30, 2004
By STEVE GEHLBACH
6 News Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Technology developed in East Tennessee is helping relief organizations decide where to send workers and supplies to areas in the Indian Ocean devastated by Sunday's earthquakes and tsunamis.
The LandScan Global Population Database was pioneered by a Computational Physics and Engineering Division group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The project began in the late 1990s through the Department of Defense, but developers soon discovered how powerful and useful the data could be when a disaster hits.
That usefulness is now being realized.
Dr. Budhendra Bhaduri says a good map tells a good story. But in this case, it doesn't have a happy ending.
According to Dr. Budhendra Bhaduri, you couldn't pick a worse spot for a disaster to hit than the Indian Ocean rim. It's the most populous place on the planet.
The LandScan model shows how many people there are in the region by location, down to a square kilometer.
"It is the finest global population data that has ever been produced," Dr. Budhendra Bhaduri says.
LandScan mapping immediately went to use in helping those who are helping victims of the deadly tsunami waves and earthquakes.
Thursday Dr. Bhaduri heard from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, who told him they've been very successful using the data and creating maps for different agencies.
The data can show how many people have been impacted at specific locations and can show where the survivors are likely to go.
"Once they know how many people are dead, they know how many extra people they actually have to address, in terms of relief efforts," Dr. Bhaduri explained.
"It's a very unfortunate event," Dr. Bhaduri said. "It's one of the disasters that we will be remembering for a long time, but it is certainly very satisfying to know that our contribution is reaching out there and making a difference in the world."
The LandScan team is also working on detailed maps of the United States to be used for Homeland Security. The new models will estimate population density at different times of day and at different times of the year.
The resolution will be even greater, down to 90 meters, which is less than the size of a city block.