SITE VISIT: Down-to-Earth Data

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Science  21 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5478, pp. 355
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5478.355d

Since Landsat began beaming down shots of forests, mountains, and fields 3 decades ago, scientists have struggled to cross disciplines and link the reams of satellite data to solving on-the-ground problems. One result is the NASA-funded Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) at Columbia University. Here you'll find a wealth of population data ready to match up with earth science data sets, as well as other environmental science info.

One of the site's premier offerings is its newly updated Gridded Population of the World. You can download 1990 and 1995 demographic data stripped of administrative borders and diced up into a remarkably fine 2.5-minute-by-2.5-minute (about 4.6-kilometer-by-4.6-km) grid. Maps show, for instance, how empty North America is compared to densely populated northern India. SEDAC also serves up more detailed geospatial and census data for China and Mexico—two countries closely eyed for ties between population and environment—as well as U.S. census data. In the Information Gateway section, plug in, say, “water pollution” and pull up report abstracts from dozens of databases, from U.S. state agencies to Costa Rican biology maps to MEDLINE. A database of 140 environmental treaties can tell you which countries have signed which agreements. Tune in to a page on the ozone layer to see world maps of near-real-time data on ultraviolet light penetration. Looks like you really need that sunblock in the Andes.

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