Photo Data Supports A Variety of Activities

Posted by Nicole de Greef, Senior Business Analyst, DataBC


What is this?

In March 2011, a devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami struck the coast of Japan and sent an estimated 5 million tonnes of debris into the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  Thanks to a $1,000,000 investment from the Government of Japan, Environment Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and partner organizations have taken measures to ensure that exposed B.C. coastline is assessed and cleared of such debris.  A series of debris removal projects were initiated and funding has been provided to community agencies to facilitate the clean-up.

Coast Heat Map



In support, aerial surveys were conducted off the exposed, outer coast of B.C. using a fixed wing aircraft to acquire over 6,500 images, covering more than 1,500 km of potentially affected coastline. Photos were tagged for specific types of debris and ranked on a scale from 0-5 to indicate debris density.  GIS analysis showed that debris accumulation increased with latitude, with more debris visible in the northern part of the study area and on the islands of Haida Gwaii.





Maps and Photos

The first map to be published on the new, B.C. Map Hub is the PICES Tsunami Debris Aerial Photo Survey map.  The team chose this technology platform because of the number of data points involved, the need to link to photos stored externally, and because there is no plan to refresh the data.  Storage of photos on the flickr photo service was considered and adopted because of the many benefits provided by the extensive Flickr API.  Most notably, the map references thumbnail images but once the user clicks through to the flickr site higher resolution photos are readily available.


_064area1_web _178area1_web 1528NQC-folder3-web  Click the photos to view the Flickr gallery.


The PICES Tsunami Debris Aerial Photo Survey map provides an easy to use, scalable, high availability online mapping interface for organizations involved in large scale coastal cleanup efforts but outdoor adventure enthusiasts, recreational boaters, search and rescue operations, marine ecologists, and digital artists can also make use of the photos which are available under Creative Commons licensing for non-commercial use.  The photos on their own are a stunning display of our Province’s coastal beauty; browse the photo albums here.  The data used in the PICES map is available via the BC Data Catalogue.


One response to “Photo Data Supports A Variety of Activities

  1. Joseph

    I think earthquake was unusual in two ways: First, it was the country’s largest recorded quake and the fourth-largest in the world since 1935 when the Richter scale was introduced. Second, it complicated the picture for how we forecast the main shock of a large earthquake.
    But why Japan’s scientists didn’t expect such a large tsunami?

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