Mason Scientists Help Analyze Satellite Data of Japan’s Coast

Posted: March 21, 2011 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: March 21, 2011 at 11:17 am

By Tara Laskowski

With the catastrophic disaster in Japan still unfolding, emergency officials are working swiftly to analyze the destruction and help save victims. Mason geography and geoinformation scientists Guido Cervone and Germana Manca have been called in to help with these efforts using satellite images.

The two are working closely with the United States Geological Survey and the United States Agency for International Development to analyze high-resolution satellite imagery from GeoEye and WorldView satellites to perform land-change analysis and create maps for the cities of Ofunato and Rikuzentakata in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. These two coastal cities were devastated by the tsunami that hit Japan earlier this month, suffering extensive damages and loss of life.

Mason and Clark University in Massachusetts are the only two universities in the United States that the Japanese government asked to work on this project.

“There are too many affected areas to be analyzed, and [the Japanese government] quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of data to be searched, downloaded, processed and analyzed,” says Cervone. “They reached out to some companies and our universities for help in analyzing the data.”

Cervone says the land changes are tremendous: “total destruction after the tsunami.” He says the scientists have seen satellite evidence of bridges, dams, and homes collapsed, extensive areas flooded and basic infrastructure destroyed.

A web page shows some of the maps they have created.

The Japanese government will use the analysis to assess damage and plan relief operations.


An enhanced satellite image showing Japan's coast before the tsunami.

The same view after the tsunami. Images courtesy of Mason's Center for Earth Observing and Space Research




Write to mediarel at