SETI [ASTRO] GIS Provides Insight Into Mars Atmosphere

Larry Klaes (
Wed, 28 Jul 1999 11:45:08 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender
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>Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 23:42:04 GMT
>From: Ron Baalke <>
>Subject: [ASTRO] GIS Provides Insight Into Mars Atmosphere
>Reply-To: Ron Baalke <>
>Northern Arizona University
>Flagstaff, Arizona
>July 12, 1999
>GIS provides insight into Mars atmosphere
>By Kira Stout, Public Affairs,
>While local meteorologists are keeping an eye on Earth's atmosphere,
>one Northern Arizona University professor is taking her research to the
>atmosphere of the red planet.
>Samantha Arundel, assistant professor of geography and public planning
>in the College of Ecosystems Science and Management, is working with
>scientists in the astrogeology team of the U.S. Geological Survey.
>The team received a $132,000 grant from NASA to study surface features
>and the atmosphere of Mars using data collected from the Mars Orbiter
>Camera on the Mars Global Surveyor, a spacecraft launched in 1996 by
>NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
>Arundel will help the team track changes in wind-blown surface features,
>like dunes and yardangs, eventually leading to information about shifting
>atmospheric circulation patterns. "Studying other atmospheres gives us
>more knowledge about our own atmosphere," she said. "Also, knowing how
>the surface changes aids in planning future landing sites."
>By examining the surface features of the planet, Arundel hopes to gather
>information about the atmosphere. Using a program called Geographical
>Information Systems, she will be able to analyze the surface and
>atmospheric features of the planet.
>Arundel also is using GIS in studying the last glacial cycle in the Colorado
>Plateau region. Arundel and scientists Ken Cole and Kathryn Thomas at the
>Colorado Plateau Field Station (also USGS), received a USGS Global Change
>Research Program combined grant of almost $1 million over the next five
>GIS will be used to model plant distributions during the last glacial cycle
>and the independent effects different climatic variables have on them. It
>also will be used to predict migration rates and future distribution
>patterns. This is important for maintaining a resource base during future
>climatic changes, Arundel said.
>GIS is a "computerized way of working with spatial data," Arundel said.
>"Anything you do with spatial data, you can use GIS to analyze and manage
>it," she said.
>Arundel said GIS has affected spatial data analysis in much the same way.
>On the Mars project, Arudel said, "We will probably be using GIS in
>atmospheric modeling, although we're not sure exactly how at this moment.
>Atmospheric modeling has traditionally been undertaken through sequential
>programming languages and not visualized until the end. I am hoping to use
>GIS during the process so that layers and various output can be visualized
>as we go."
>In addition to geographers, GIS also is used by city planners in deciding
>the best construction locations, by biologists in tracking animals, by 911
>operators in deciding the quickest ambulance routes and a variety of other
>The Geography and Public Planning department offers a Geographical
>Information Management emphasis in its geography program to students
>interested in the management of spatial data.
>"It is a comprehensive program, and there are more and more students
>interested in it," Arundel said. "Every GIM graduate I have advised has
>found a job in the field within six months of graduation."

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