Colorado Floods:
Hitting Home and Impacting How We Think About Using Geospatial Data and Analysis

Before and after behind Exelis VIS headquarters shows just how high Boulder Creek rose.   By Jaye Lampe
President of Exelis VIS

More than a week removed from the storm that caused extensive flooding throughout Colorado, there was a river raging behind our office building where a picturesque bike and walking path used to be. Water lapping at the edge of the parking lot was disconcerting, but relatively speaking, we were extremely lucky. That is not the case for many of our friends and neighbors across the Front Range.

After a year's worth of rainfall fell in several days, the very canyons that create the breathtaking beauty Colorado is known for became the conduits for hundreds of tons of water that flooded Boulder and surrounding towns. The loss of life and property, along with the extensive damage to infrastructure, has been devastating and heartbreaking.

The evacuation response by Colorado National Guard units and FEMA has been tremendous and welcomed. Here at Exelis VIS we are connecting users of geospatial imagery with the analysis tools they need to assess the damage and respond. Utilizing ENVI image analysis software, consumers of geospatial imagery and GIS analysts are able to assess damage to roads, buildings, and open lands. With this information they can identify evacuation routes, locate safe areas for first responders, and manage the recovery effort more effectively.

As our community continues to assess the damage and begins the process of rebuilding, I hope to further the discussion of how geospatial data and analysis can be better leveraged to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Several other natural disasters shared headlines with Colorado during last week's coverage of the flood. In Kyoto, Japan, 260,000 people were evacuated due to a typhoon, and in Mexico, two powerful hurricanes killed more than 100 people and left tens of thousands stranded. The interpretation of remotely-sensed imagery for updated situational awareness, change detection of conditions to assess disaster impact and mitigation, spectral data analysis to delineate materials of interest, and terrain modeling for mobility logistics and flood analysis are all tools that every planner and first-responder should have at their ready. These image analysis methods have been proven in military operational settings and the need for them to be incorporated into natural disaster planning and response efforts is greater than ever.

If you are using geospatial imagery and data in association with the Colorado Flood relief and response and don't already have ENVI, I encourage you to contact your Exelis representative to discuss your eligibility for an emergency license. We will host a complimentary workshop at the Exelis VIS headquarters in Boulder, Colorado for organizations involved in flood recovery efforts on Monday, September 30. If you are interested in joining us for this unique opportunity to collaborate with peers, quickly answer complex flooding problems using imagery, and take away a finished geospatial product to share with fellow responders, please contact or call 303.413.3968.

When it Rains... There's IDL for Ground Validation Measurement

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission's goal is to develop high-resolution, near-real-time global precipitation data products by combining all available information from space and ground-based measurements. David Wolff, a research scientist and meteorologist with NASA Wallops Flight Facility is part of a team supporting Ground Validation (GV) program activities of the GPM mission.

Read a case study to learn more about Mr. Wolff's GV work on the GPM mission using IDL.
Reflectivity image from June 12, 2013. The storms highlighted by the black circles are tornadic, as evidenced by the hook echoes on the SW sides of the echoes.

In support of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission's (TRMM) Global Validation Program, the NASA TRMM office had created the Radar Software Library (RSL), a C-based library for ingesting, analyzing and outputting several common radar data formats. However, working with C can be cumbersome and time consuming. Mr. Wolff and his team used the IDL version of RSL (RSL_IN_IDL), because it provides a more scientist-friendly interface for ingesting, analyzing, and visualizing radar data.

This provides the utility of RSL in an IDL environment. The TRMM/GPM Ground Validation team headed by Mr. Wolff also used IDL to develop ingest routines of numerous common radar data formats such as WSR-88D (Level II), Sigmet, Lassen, Universal Format, and others.

Stop By and See Us at GEOINT

  The GEOINT 2013 Symposium is being held this year in Tampa, Florida, October 13-16. We'll be there and hope you'll stop by the Exelis Booth (#429) to see how you can save time, money and resources with ENVI capabilities to process large volumes of complex data quickly on a scalable server environment. With ENVI, you can conveniently use advanced image analysis tools from your desktop, mobile devices, or in the cloud to access important situational awareness to make more informed decisions.

Join us for a special training session

On Monday, October 14th from 2-4pm in room number 20, we'll be giving an introduction to hyperspectral target detection and material identification. During this session you'll learn how to analyze airborne hyperspectral products created as part of a typical Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (PED) cell. You will develop a better understanding of material spectra and spectral imaging, visually recognize spectral matches, recognize the purpose of atmospheric correction, and understand the meaning and need for spectral libraries.

Exelis VIS Supports Student Innovation with the NASA Develop Program

The NASA DEVELOP Summer Virtual Poster Session recently concluded with a judged competition co-sponsored by Exelis VIS. The contest included 30 projects conducted by 141 participants from around the globe, and consisted of a lot of great work by students using ENVI and IDL with data from NASA. The winners of the competition, six interns from DEVELOP's NASA Ames Research Center location, received a one-year trial version of ENVI+IDL courtesy of Exelis VIS. The winning project, "Fire and Ice Wars: Battles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains," used NASA Earth observing satellites to monitor snow water equivalent anomalies, snowpack, and forest disturbance in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The winner was picked from six best in category projects. The team from Jet Propulsion Laboratory won best in category for Responding to Natural Disasters. Their project "Unearthing Faults: Locating Unknown Faults in Southern California using NASA Earth Observations" used IDL, ArcGIS®, and Python to expedite fault detection in California. This new methodology allows researchers, earthquake disaster response teams, and policy-makers to examine ground and fault motions for moderate to large earthquakes. Newly-discovered faults will be integrated into fault databases to improve future earthquake hazard assessment.

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See us at these upcoming trade shows:

October 13-16, 2013
Tampa, FL

Esri Latin American User Conference
October 16-18, 2013
Lima, Peru


Learn about ENVI and IDL applications and functionality with these videos:

New Sensors Provide Superior Data to Increase Geospatial Knowledge

The New ENVI 5 API - Leveraging the Benefits of IDL in ENVI

View all recorded web seminars.


Imagery Speaks
Improving Crisis Response

Now I see What's in a Multispectral Image

Digital Number Radiance and Reflectance


See all Exelis events and training.

Introduction to IDL
October 1, 2013 - Milan, Italy

Application Development with IDL
October 2, 2013 - Bracknell, UK

Using ENVI with ArcGIS®
October 9, 2013 - Milan, Italy

Landsat 8 Seminar -
October 9, 2013 - Boulder, CO

Extracting Information from LiDAR Data
October 29, 2013 - Herndon VA

Exelis VIS in the News

Exelis is Ready to Help - Colorado Flooding

A VerySpatial Podcast - Episode 419
Our Esri UC conversation with Jaye Lampe from Exelis VIS

Big data and services were hot topics
at Esri UC

GIS Cafe

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