Office work for the glory of science!

22 07 2008

Having an injury while in Hawai`i for a summer of outdoor research is definitely a drag. Even my meager plans to go snorkeling last weekend were derailed by rainstorms. My boss wouldn’t let me go to the ocean entry tonight because I’m not medically cleared until this Friday. ((Sigh))

To say that desk work is frustrating doesn’t begin to convey today’s small agonies. I’m attempting to georeference new and improved satellite photography for our mapping project. I am using a program called ArcGIS, and its offshoot known as ArcMap, to compare the old satellite imagery with the new. Unfortunately, the new images come to me as 1 kilometer squares with absolutely no reference points (aside from their topographic features). I have to place the new image over several older ones and then compare distinctive features to link the images up. Imagine trying to take two different tracings and line them up as closely as possible by stitching them together. It’s a very time-intensive job, since you have to look for the smallest recognizable features to stitch in order to make an accurate map.

I spent 5 hours working on one quadrant (Mauna Loa’s summit and the NOAA Weather Observatory on its flank). Guess what happened? Yes, the computer lost the data. 26 meticulously georeferenced points. 5 hours of beating the thing into submission, and all for naught. ARGH. I will conquer it tomorrow, I swear.

Here’s a sample of the type of images I’m working with. The Big Island is 10,432 square kilometers. Each image I work with is one kilometer. You can see how this would take quite a while.

Since I haven’t posted one of these before, this shows how much of the Big Island’s surface area is covered by its various volcanoes. Mauna Loa is huge, and covers 51% of the island. Remember that Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea are the only 3 active volcanoes. Hualalai has been dormant for some time, and doesn’t have much eruptive capability left. Kilauea is always erupting (these days) and is the current star of the show. However, the amount of lava produced by Kilauea in one day was produced by Mauna Loa in 20 minutes in 1984. It’s far and away the most potentially dangerous volcano in Hawai`i.

Thankfully, we’re going on a field trip up Mauna Loa on Thursday. I am so excited to get out of the office it’s almost silly. The week after this one I’ll either be hacking through the low jungles of Mauna Loa’s eastern flank doing a gravity survey, or up on Mauna Loa’s summit doing more kinematic GPS. Down with office work!*

*Bear in mind that office work is also necessary for good science, and that the author of this post is just mildly stir-crazy.