SA Geological Hazard Observation System

February 19th, 2011, Published in Articles: PositionIT

The Council for Geoscience held a workshop in Pretoria on 15 February 2011 to discuss the South African Geological Hazard Observation System. The system intends to stimulate the creation of decision support or risk management systems aimed at assessing the impacts of geological hazards and informing policymakers in terms of prevention, mitigation and adaptation. The project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and is expected to be complete by late 2013.

The purpose of the workshop was to obtain feedback from geoscientists, earth observation practitioners, potential users and stakeholders regarding their requirements of the system and to engage with remote sensing experts regarding the development of a framework for the practical assessment of geological hazards using remote sensing technologies.  The workshop was attended by 70 participants representing a mix of potential users of the observation system (30%), remote sensing experts (34%) and geoscientists (36%). The feedback provided by the participants was positive.

Jeanine Engelbrecht (Council for Geoscience), Dr. Karen Joyce
(Charles Darwin University) and Manie Brynard (Council for Geoscience).

Jeanine Engelbrecht from the Council of Geoscience explained to the workshop delegates that the South African Geological Hazard Observation System aims to provide a geological hazards atlas detailing the various geological hazards and the areas affected by such hazards. She explained that the use of remote sensing for the mapping and long-term monitoring of the areas affected by natural or geological disasters will provide the analyst with the tools for remote monitoring of the changes that lead to the hazardous event, with field work only being required for the verification of the results.

The project aims to integrate and coordinate geographic information technology with special emphasis on remote sensing technologies to firstly identify geological hazards, and secondly to determine a framework for the practical assessment of the hazard using remote sensing technologies. The geohazard information will be available in a web-based GIS format.

Engelbrecht explained that geological hazards currently being addressed by the geohazard atlas include:

  • Coastal and beach erosion

  • Deformation due to mining and ground water abstraction

  • Earthquakes

  • Terrestrial erosion

  • Geochemical hazards (natural and anthropogenic)

  • Landslides

  • Problem soils (shrink/swell clays, collapsible soils and acidic soils)

  • Sinkholes

  • Tsunamis

She pointed out that the impact of geological hazards and how they are responded to depends on the ability to identify, understand and predict the probable spatial extent of such hazardous events or processes using appropriate technology. Early detection of areas with the potential of being affected by natural or geological hazards will be critical in mitigating the long term consequences of such hazards.

Engelbrecht explained that the identification of hazards accompanied by a measure of the probability of their occurrence and assessment of the vulnerability of the affected area, imply that mitigation measures for risks can be identified in time. Examples include:

  • An input to measure development potential and if necessary, adjust land use plans

  • Enforcing building codes and good construction practice

  • Constructing early warning systems

  • Constructing physical protection barriers

  • Creating a network of escape routes and safe places

  • Creating community preparedness and awareness.

She added that failure to accurately identify areas that may be exposed to hazard events and not applying mitigation measures may result in insufficient disaster relief, and a lack of mitigation strategies to prevent the urban and industrial development of areas that are actually unsuitable for such development.

Manie Brynard (Council for Geoscience) outlined the development of a national geohazards web-based application for South Africa. He emphasised to the delegates that the system’s map services were designed to be user friendly and simple to use with layer based information, modeling tools and the facility to enable on-the-fly reporting. A prototype map service has been developed in javascript and html which uses Google Maps API. Brynard explained that future development of the system depends on the need to establish user requirements for functionality which will in turn lead to further development of the map services. The finalised application will be integrated with the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).

The Council for Geoscience is requesting feedback from geoscientists, earth observation practitioners, users and stakeholders regarding their requirements and suggestions for the South African Geological Hazard Observation System. The questions below provide an indication as to the type of feedback that is needed:

  • What would you expect from a South African Geological Hazard Observation System in general and a Geological Hazards Atlas of South Africa in particular?

  • What information should be included in the South African Geological Hazard Observation System?

  • In what format should the data be presented?

  • What sort of decisions will be supported by information on geological hazards and the areas affected by them?

  • Who are the stakeholders and potential users and how will they benefit from the system?

  • Are there any geological hazards not currently considered that should be included?

  • In your opinion, what would you consider to be the most pressing geological hazards and their impacts?

  • Any other recommendations, comments and suggestions on improving the intended South African Geological Hazard Observation System?

  • What sort of decisions or activities will be supported by a Geological Hazards Atlas detailing mechanisms of the hazard and the areas influenced by such hazards?

  • What are the major impacts of geological hazards and how do they affect the natural, human and industrial environment as well as development potential of specific areas?

  • Which organisations can contribute to the development of a geological hazard atlas and how can they contribute?

  • What information should be included in a framework for the assessment of geological hazards using remote sensing techniques?

  • What sort of decisions or activities will be supported by a framework for the assessment of geological hazards using remote sensing?

  • What are the remote sensing data sources and analytical techniques that can contribute to a framework for the assessment of geological hazards?

  • Which organisations can contribute to the development of remote sensing techniques for the assessment of geological hazards and how can they contribute?

Contact Jeanine Engelbrecht, Council for Geoscience, Tel 021 943-6728, jengelbrecht@geoscience.org.za

Subscribe to our leading email newsletters

FREE-OF-CHARGE

CLICK for other EE Publishers information products