California drones are now being used in order to track El Nino coastal erosion and flooding, in an effort to keep scientists updated regarding the changes brought about by this potent phenomenon.
The initiative is being spearheaded by Nature Conservancy, an environmental organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
The nonprofit group has joined forces with DroneDeploy, a startup based in San Francisco, which provides software solutions for those who own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones.
Together, they have developed a free mobile app that can be used in order to track changes occurring along California’s coastline, as a result of El Nino.
Thanks to the software, California drone pilots can use specific flight routes for their flying vehicles, in order to take photographs and videos exactly of the areas that need to be monitored.
Moreover, according to Ian Smith, sales and marketing specialist at DroneDeploy, the program also makes it much more easier to compile data, thanks to cloud storage.
By employing this app, local drone owners can help create a much more consistent picture of California’s rapidly changing coastline, in order to assist scientists in determining which areas will be most at risk of flooding and coastal erosion in the future.
While California’s beaches extend across 840 miles, the project’s organizers are saying that even if a tenth of this vast expanse can be monitored the experiment will be considered a fruitful endeavor.
The ultimate purpose is to develop 3D maps of the coastline, illustrating how flooding and coastal erosion triggered by El Nino affect the shores at different moments of the day, and how this process accelerates as days go by.
This way, it will be much easier to identify hotspots that might eventually become submerged as global warming and other phenomena such as El Nino intensify.
As revealed by a Pacific Institute report published in 2009, in the event of sea levels soaring by an extra 4.6 feet, Californian ocean-side communities will be severely affected, especially if a powerful storm strikes..
More precisely, around half a million residents will have to be evacuated, and damages will likely surpass $100 billion, given that several beaches will be completely submerged, and numerous homes, schools, public roads and power stations will be flooded.
Such an occurrence may seem improbable at first, but researchers have determined that it could become a reality by the end of the century, and possibly even sooner than that, if climate change isn’t countered in any way.
If citizen scientists take up the challenge launched by the Nature Conservancy, hopefully high-definition 3D maps will be developed based on footage captured by drones.
As explained by Matt Merrifield, chief technology officer at the eco-friendly charity, these maps will be used in order to test if predictive computer models developed by researchers are indeed reflective of the changes unfolding along the Pacific coast, or if these simulations must be tweaked or revised.
Given that the initiative will rely exclusively on crowd-sourced data, collected by amateurs, organizers are aware that the accuracy and reliability of the observations will probably not be up to par at all times, but they still think any contribution will be worthwhile.
Hopefully, this campaign will also help people become more aware of the rapid ways in which California’s coastline is changing.
This might spur them to get more actively involved in other projects meant to curb coastal erosion, or it might make them demand more stringent measures from the local government in order to reduce the impact of this natural process.
Image Source: Flickr