Tag Archive: environment


Alaska is America’s last frontier.  The origin behind this nickname came from its isolation from the rest of the continental United States.  Alaska is a vast region with rugged terrain and harsh climates, bordered by Canada and several bodies of water.  Many resources can be found in this remote land, but one of these resources, oil, has started controversy among its environmental impact and as a result has plagued this region.
Approximately 50 years ago, Alaska was admitted as the 49th state of the United States.  Europeans first discovered this land in 1741 when a Danish-born navigator, Vitus Bering, who was serving in the Russian Navy, was on an expedition around the northern Pacific Ocean.  During this expedition, he sighted land on the southern coast of Alaska, in an area known as Kayak Island, in addition to the Aleutian Islands.  Another vessel, captained by Aleksei Chirikov, was sailing along side of Bering’s ship when a storm separated them.  Chirikov continued to explore and traveled to various points along Alaska’s coast until his crew became ill and the journey could no longer continue.  From this point, the Russian’s occupied the Alaskan territory; however much of it was unexplored.  On October 18, 1867, the land was purchased by the United States for approximately $7.2 million dollars.  Alaska has many geographic landscapes within its boundaries; some of which have helped its economy and others which may it difficult for settlements to survive.  Gold and oil have had a significant impact on Alaska’s geographical landscapes, while the climate has prohibited development in many places across the vast region.
Alaska’s economy has improved over time due to an abundance of resources.  Timber, oil, sea foods, and tourism have all contributed to this growth.  Furthermore, Alaska was first attracted to Americans by the gold rushes of Juneau, CircleCity, Klondike, Nome, and Fairbanksin the late 1800’s.  Over 30,000 people flocked to these areas in the hopes to strike gold; however, with the increase in population, Congress had to start applying laws to the territory to keep order.  After the gold rush had ended, many of the people who originally migrated to Alaskaended up staying there which resulted in Alaska’s population quickly increasing.  Small settlements grew into big towns, such as Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome.  Also, the development of a railroad system in Alaskawas built to connect mines throughout the territory to the port of Seward, located on the southern coast of Alaska, which allowed the flow of goods and resources to be dispersed.  The Alaskarailroad connected the towns of Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seward.  Eventually, as time progressed, the railway was growing with the increase of military personnel moving supplies and other resources in increasing demand.  The economic, cultural, and political geography of this land had transformed greatly after the discovery of gold.  Economically, the gold rush contributed to a growing economy that assisted in the establishment of many new settlements during the turn of the century.  Culturally, the area of Alaska with gold deposits was predominately Native Americans.  The gold rush expanded the culture with the massive amounts of people migrating to these areas.  New customs, religions, and beliefs contributed to the socio-economic way of life that was originally not available.    Lastly, the political geography of Alaskawas slowly changing in order to cater to the growing population.  Congress and the United States started recognizing Alaska; instead of being a vast open land, it was seen as an area of the United Stateswith an abundance of resources.  This observation provoked many changes in the laws of Alaska.
                   Figure 1: Map published in 1898 and covers areas abundant in gold and coal
Another major improvement to Alaska’s economy was the opening of vast oilfields in northern part of the state.  In the 1970’s, the United States authorized a pipeline to be built to transport the oil from the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay to the Gulf of Alaska at Valdez.  The pipeline, which is called the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, runs approximately 800 miles between these two areas and has transported over 15 billion barrels of oil since it was built.  In Valdez, the oil is then shipped from the port of Valdez to the mainland of the United States for further refining.  Supposedly, there is also a great abundance of oil that can be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee (ANWR), located in northeastern Alaskaand other areas of the Arctic; however, environmentalists continually fight the possibility of drilling in this tundra region.  In an article by Mitchell, he states “much of the debate over whether to drill in ANWR rests on the amount of economically recoverable oil, as it relates to world oil markets, weighed against the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the natural wildlife.”  Some of the animals, birds, and mammals in these habitats that would be affected include caribou, polar bears, walrus, and whales, among other species.  In addition to damaging the habitats of these animals, there is also political and cultural landscapes affected.  Politically, the Canadian government opposes anytime type of drilling in this area due to the shared boundary with the Yukon Province.  Two Canadian national parks, Ivvavik and Vuntut are located in the vicinity of the opposed drilling sites and also provide refugee for various types of animals, especially caribou.  These parks have banned any type of industry from developing these lands and expect the United States to treat these lands with the same respect.  Since the discovery of oil in Alaska, it has become a major revenue of the state, in addition to income for many Alaskans.  The residents of the state along with the Alaskan government are for the idea of drilling in these protected lands because it will increase profit and revenue for them from the oil leasing.  The Native Americans of the geographic region have split views on whether to drill or not depending on where they live.  For instance, the Inupiat Eskimos who live north of the mountains named Brooks Range, are for onshore drilling, but oppose to offshore drilling; where as the Gwich’in Indians, south of the Brooks Range, pose the drilling as a threat to their environment.  Other supporters of the drilling argue that the oil able to be salvaged beneath northern Alaska’s tundra could equate to many decades of importing oil from the Middle East.  This would decrease our dependency on oil from foreign countries and reinvest our money in our own economy vice in a foreign government.  Regardless, of the aforementioned pros and cons, there still has not been enough research to determine how the drilling would really affect the geographic landscape of northern Alaska.  Many of the geographic landscapes affected by the extraction of petroleum have had similar results to Alaska’s economy as in the gold rush.  Petroleum extracts make up the majority of revenue for the state of Alaska.
        Figure 2: Map published in 1999 by the State of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Division
The physical geography of Alaskais mostly mountainous with 14 ranges covering the majority of area within the state, along with hills, valleys, and rivers.  Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes are known to have helped shape the geography of Alaskaover the past millions of years.  In addition, Alaska is surrounded by water on three of its sides: Arctic Ocean to the North, Bering Sea to the West, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.  The total area of these three bodies of water consists for 43,887 miles of the coastline.  However, most of Alaska’s physical geography is very remote and inhabitable and covers approximately 590, 804 square miles.  It is extremely cold making it very difficult for any type of agriculture, cultivation, extensive development, or permanent settlement for most people.  The largest city, Anchorage, does not have more than 300,000 people residing in it.  Most of the northern lands are tundra and permafrost.  Permafrost consumes about 80% of Alaskaand impacts the physical infrastructure of Alaska.  Constructing buildings over permafrost could cause it to melt resulting in the buildings to partially sink.  Similarly, roads in permafrost areas can cause the subsurface to melt resulting in road depressions and expensive repairs.  Since it is so inhabitable, the region has not been explored in great detail; however, in addition to what has already been found, it is possible there may be even more resources in gold and oil that have not been found and which would be very beneficial to Alaska.
In conclusion, many industries have been established in Alaska.  Gold, copper, and coal mines have been created from the abundance of resources located within or near the various mountain ranges in this geographic region.  In addition, oil and gas pump stations have been created from various regions in the north.  Since the land is so remote, railroads and pipelines have been built to transport theses resources to other parts of the country, mainly through the ports of Valdez and Seward.  Unfortunately, between the northern and southern regions of Alaska, the land is extremely rugged and unstable, with three mountain ranges, permafrost, rivers and streams, and many migration paths for animals, in addition to active fault lines.  As a result, the geological activity between the north and the south has caused many problems for the pipeline, as well as the railroad, which does not travel as far north.

Advertisements

There are two main international concerns with respect to South Asia: Terrorism and Nuclear War.  Both concerns can be originated from a mountainous geographic region known as Kashmir, in northern India.  I will begin with a short history of the region for an understanding of its cultural and political geography.

 
The former state known as Kashmir has been disputed for over 50 years between India and Pakistan.  The conflict started shortly after the British Empire gave independence to Indiaand Pakistanwhich was around August of 1947.  Immediately following the independence, the Marharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, contemplated which country would be more advantageous for his state to join.   Both, Indiaand Pakistan were divided by the British due to their religions and Kashmirwas left to make a decision to transfer their power peacefully.  Singh was torn between his religion, Hindu, and the majority religion of his people who were mostly Muslim.  Since there was a larger Muslim population than Hindu, Pakistanand the people of Kashmir wished to become part of Pakistan.  In addition, Pakistanfeared that Indiawould cut off their water supply coming from this region.  Kashmir has a diversity of different religions throughout its region.  In the 1940’s, the total population was just over 4 million people, approximately 77% were Muslim, 20% Hindu, 1.5% Sikh, and 1% Buddhist.  However, the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh, practiced Hindu beliefs; therefore, creating a religious conflict.  This resulted in extensive violence in the region between Hindus and Muslims.  Overall, Singh’s conflicting dream was to continue ruling Kashmir as an independent nation. 
 
A few months later, the Pakistani army and Pashtun tribesman from Pakistan invaded Kashmir in hopes to seize the land for Pakistan.  They pillaged towns, looted, and raped Kashmiri women.  In response, Singh annexed Kashmir to India in return for military aid from the Indian army which would defend Kashmir.  Shortly thereafter, the United Nations ordered a ceasefire at the end of the first Kashmir war.  As a result of the invasion, Pakistanoccupied a substantial part of the Kashmirvalley, totaling approximately 36,000 square miles.  In 1963, Pakistanceded an area known as Trans-Karakoram Tract to China; however, India still claims this area because they do not recognize Pakistan’s region of Kashmir.  Since turmoil continued to affect the region in two more wars, the United Nations has attempted to resolve the conflict by enacting new resolutions.  However, this region of South Asia has caused much violence contributing to this conflict, due to its sparse and different cultural geography.  Kashmir is on the brink of a nuclear war due to this conflict between Pakistanand India.  Moreover, many terrorist groups are being harbored in this region that is also in support of Al Qaeda, among other groups.  This has created much indifference between Pakistanand Indiaresulting in several wars and instability in the region.  As a result of the unstableness in this geographic region, the international community is extremely concerned of what the outcome might be.
 
Separatist violence in Kashmir has been increasing as time has progressed.  India continues to blame Pakistan-based militant groups for many deadly attacks against Indian civilians, in addition to Indian government security forces.  Most of these militants have ties to Islamic terrorist groups as well.  In March 2003, the chief of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency reported that “70 Islamic militant camps are operating in Pakistani Kashmir. In May 2009, the Indian Defense Minister claimed that about 3,000 “terrorists” were being trained in camps” on the Pakistani-controlled region of Kashmir.  In addition, it is thought that Al Qaeda may be active in Kashmir as well (Kronstadt 2003).  Indian authorities are also urging that the U.S. and international community pay closer attention to anti-India terrorism originating from Pakistan.  Another international concern between these two countries is the possibility of nuclear war.  In 1998, Pakistanand Indiaboth tested nuclear bombs; thus escalating a minor conflict into a possible nuclear conflict.  Since then, there have been concerns over if the two countries would resolve the conflict by nuclear resolution.  Both countries also have their own extensive nuclear policy.  Pakistan’s nuclear policy is “is to act in a responsible manner and to exercise restraint in conduct of its deterrence policy.”  Their nuclear policy also does not want their capabilities to affect non-nuclear weapon countries within in the region; therefore, Pakistan’s nuclear policy seems to allow a nuclear attack only on the defensive.  On the other hand, India’s nuclear policy stands on the offensive.   Its policy will have nuclear involvement only if Indiais reacting to a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack that affects their land or citizens.

Case Study Proposal:



PROPSED TITLE:
Population Growth in Prince William County, Virginia and its Implications on the Environment.
ABSTRACT 
This study will examine the continuous urban sprawl and suburban development in Prince William County, Virginia.  Prince William County is located in the region of Northern Virginia, which is a part of the Washington DC Metropolitan greater region.  Urban development disrupts hydrological and ecological systems, in addition to isolating and degrading local natural habitats.  Over the past few decades, Prince William County has transformed from a rural area with two main population centers, Manassas and Woodbridge, to a thriving society.  Today, these two population centers now are interconnected with a steady stream of roads and neighborhoods.  20 years ago, this area was quiet and had quite a lower population. In 20 years, the population has almost doubled from approximately 216,000 in 1990 to approximately 402,000 in 2010. In addition the county is projected to grow to approximately 555,000 in another 20 years; the county had nearly doubled its population every 20 years since 1950 (population was 22,000 in 1950).  The growth of this county has led to a decline in agriculture and an increase in pollution.  These constraints from growth and development have ultimately resulted in several ecological issues that this study will attempt to address.   Furthermore, this study will identify the spatial patterns associated with the growth and how it has grown over the years.
RASTER LAYERS
Maps (i.e. Historic, topographic, pre-1990 census maps)  – Any scanned map that has features that can be digitized to fill in gaps from all other data used.
SRTM – Any type of elevation data needs to be used in order to explain why certain areas have not been affected by urban sprawl.
Orthorectified Aerial Imagery – This type of imagery will provide most of the historical data needed to determine foundation data for comparing the present to the past.  Each image used can be digitized to extract data into vector format.
Satellite Imagery – This type of imagery will allow various types of sensors to determine changes via comparing two or more images identify change detection in vegetation, ecology, infrastructure, and other important features in foundation data.
Table 1. Satellite remote sensing data for ecological research.
Satellite
Launch
Sensors
spectrum
spatial resolution (m)
temporal resolution (days)
Landsat
1972
MSS, TM
V, IR
15-80
16
SPOT
1986
HRV
V, IR
10-20
5-26
IRS
1988
LISS, WiFS
V, IR
5-200
5-24
NOAA
1970
AVHRR
V, IR
1100
0.5
OrbView
1998
SeaWiFS
V, IR
1100
1
Terra
1999
MODIS
V, IR
250-1000
2
ERS
1991
AMI
microwave
20
variable
RADARSAT
1995
SAR
microwave
20
IKONOS
2000
IKONOS
V, IR
1-4
KOMPSAT
2000
EOC, OSMI
V
6-800
 
VECTOR LAYERS
LULC (Land use land cover), including current and historical datasets  – This provides an idea of where the different feature classes of land type and uses are located.
Census: 1990 and newer census tracts, population – Census data reveals where the population is with any given area.
Hydrographic: rivers, streams, lakes, watershed – Hydrographic features are part of a foundation dataset.
Infrastructure: roads, rails, powerlines, pipelines – Infrastructure features are part of a foundation dataset.
Environment: Air Quality maintenance area, water quality monitoring station – Reveals location of areas that monitor changes in the environment.  This allows for the validity of data acquired in relation to air and water quality data compared to sensors that capture quality via remote sensing.
Boundary: County and cities – Provides an outline for the areas of interest.
METHODOLOGY
The methodology used for studying the issue of population affecting the local ecology requires two different datasets themed to a specific time frame, one pre-1990 dataset and one post-1990 dataset.  The area of interest that will be studied is within the county borders of Prince William County, Virginia, including the cities of Occoquan, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  A foundation dataset based on the aforementioned criteria is needed to identify changes and challenges that urban growth has had within the county.  GIS allows this foundation dataset to be overlaid with land cover and other raster and vector files that have a relation to identifying the affects of increased population in the county with files that can help determine factors that affect the ecology such has changes in county infrastructure.
In order to accomplish this, GIS plays an instrumental role in conducting spatial analysis between feature classes and identifying relationships among the two topics: population and ecology.
Not all datasets are readily available in can be used immediately for spatial analyses.  Most of all raster files in this project will have to be scanned and inputted into the system.  At this point, each file, whther it is a photographic image or a map needs to be spatially referenced in the area it is detailing.  Digitizing these types of files is a necessity once the files are geo-referenced in order to extrapolate any valuable vector datasets from the map or images, such as landcover and landuse, vegetation, missing pieces to infrastructure (i.e. roads, buildings, parks, waterways, et cetera), et cetera.  Most of the raster files that are not used for creating vector datasets will be used for identifying air quality, pollution, water quality, and most other ecological readings within the county.
Population data acquired from the U.S. Census Bureau and Aerial Photography will be monitored over the past 60 years, in 5 to 10 year increments depending on how much the population has changed the landscape of the county.  Each 10 year increment changes will be identified in GIS and then compared to see the progression of change temporally.  The decrease of agricultural land will also be identified in GIS via this process.
CONCLUSION
The results of this project should determine what areas within Prince William County have endured more drastic changes than other areas, as well as what areas need to be protected from any further development.  In addition, this project will visually and temporally depict the changes over time in regards to population growth, infrastructure changes, changes in water levels, air quality animations, and vegetation changes.  Overall, the results will identify spatial patterns that have directly impacted how the area has grown into what it is today from what it was 60 years ago, while simultaneously affecting the ecology of the area.
LIMITATIONS
This most anticipated roadblock will be the acquisition of data needed to fulfill all the requirements in order to do spatial analysis and observations.  Secondary to do this, the time involved to complete this project will be dependent on the amount of change and extraction that is needed from the ingestion of maps or photographic images.  The more gaps in the vector data, the more time needed to extract from the raster files.
desktop explorer

Geography and stuff for Urbanists

ImagerySpeaks

Where Industry Discovers Geospatial Image Analysis

Mapoholic

High on maps and GIS

GeoBuzz

Stay in the know

The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.