BOX 1.2

The tragic events following the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia highlight the global need for coordinated disaster preparedness and response. Seismometers detected the earthquake that triggered the tsunami, and satellite altimeters detected the tsunami before it struck land (Plate 1). A tsunami warning system could potentially have saved tens of thousands of lives, but it did not exist in this region. In the aftermath of the disaster, a wide array of high-resolution satellite images and measurements are helping guide and monitor relief and recovery efforts and assisting in the deployment of resources (food, water, and medical supplies). As nations rebuild their devastated communities, Earth observations will provide critical inputs into decisions on the location, land use, and type of disaster-resistant construction practices that will improve human conditions in these disaster-prone regions. See, for example, the USGS National Map Hazards Data Distribution System at <> and the Cornell University Tsunami reconnaissance relief site for Sri Lanka at <>.

BOX 1.3

The Earth science and medical science communities have joined forces to understand and predict human morbidity rates resulting from the increasing incidence of skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which damages DNA, is a risk factor for this cancer. Using satellite and other observations (Plate 2), Earth scientists have learned how the industrial release of CFCs leads to the dramatic loss of ozone over both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Their studies led to the regulation of an array of synthetic organic chlorine and bromine compounds through the Montreal Protocol and the ensuing London and Copenhagen amendments. A reduction of these compounds is projected to decrease the incidence of skin cancer, other factors being equal (Figure 1.3.1).

FIGURE 1.3.1 Effect of the Montreal Protocol. SOURCE: World Meteorological Organization, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2002, Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project, WMO Report 47, 498 pp., Geneva, 2003.

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