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Geodetic Survey upgrade to improve land mapping services

US: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey – the official US government source for determining precise latitude, longitude and elevation – is undergoing a modernisation effort that takes into account advances in GPS and other technologies.

The effort is important to all activities requiring accurate positioning information including levee construction projects, the design of evacuation routes in hurricane-prone areas and the forecast of sea-level rise in coastal communities. The modernised National Spatial Reference System will take even greater advantage of newer technologies and better track changes in position and elevation over time to improve and update digital maps.

The proposed changes will affect civilian-federal mapping authorities, as well as state and municipal governments that have adopted the National Spatial Reference System.

A Federal Geospatial Summit held at NOAA headquarters in Maryland marked the beginning of a transparent dialogue with users to alleviate concerns and help plan far in advance for these necessary changes to infrastructure and operating methodologies.

Juliana Blackwell, Director of NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey, said, “The reference frame in the past was hampered by being held static in time on an Earth that is constantly changing. The new methodologies better capture changes, such as subsidence or sea level rise and the improved points of reference benefit everyone using positioning data for the foundation of their work.”

A modernised reference system will allow users to easily calculate accurate positions using a survey-grade GPS receiver in conjunction with a scientific model of Earth’s gravity field. In 2009, a NOAA commissioned, independent socio-economic study estimated the value of these modernisation efforts to be USD 4.8 billion over the next 15 years, including USD 2.2 billion in avoidance costs from improved floodplain management.

“An improved vertical datum means elevation measurements will become more accurate and less expensive, helping the National Flood Insurance Program to reduce the impacts and losses caused by flooding,” said Paul Rooney, a Mapping Technology Specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Source: Space Daily