FREE EPRINT: Sustainable Development Goals: genuine global change requires genuine measures of efficacy, Journal of Maps

Smith, M.J.
Journal of Maps


We live in tumultuous times - it is a common refrain for each new generation as the challenges of contemporary society impinge upon their worldview. There is always change and there is no change quite like how we experience it in the here and now and the way in which it disrupts our status quo. Malthus was disturbed by population change and how it would implode the society he inhabited. His thesis - the Principle of Population (1798) - espoused what became known as the Malthusian trap whereby growth in the supply of resources led to an increase in population so negating any boost to living standards. The so-called ‘limits to growth’ remain topical both for proponents and opponents. So is the world we inhabit today any different?

FREE EPRINT: Editorial: Perspectives on the contemporary art-geoscience interface, Journal of Maps

Tooth, S., Smith, M.J., Viles, H.A. and Parrott, F.
Journal of Maps


This Special Issue of the Journal of Maps is devoted to highlighting contemporary examples of interdisciplinary collaborations between the arts and the geosciences (e.g. geomorphology, geology, Quaternary studies), with a specific focus upon the exploration of locations using, at least in part, some form of mapping. As previous contributions to the journal have exemplified, mapping is essential for the exploration of locations, particularly by supplying visual representation to help with the characterisation of three core geographical concepts (Matthews & Herbert, 2008): space (e.g. distances, directions), place (e.g. boundaries, territories), and environment (e.g. biophysical characteristics).

FREE EPRINT: Testing and application of a model for snow redistribution (Snow_Blow) in the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica, Journal of Glaciology

Mills, S.C., Le Brocq, A.M., Winter, K., Smith, M.J., Hillier, J., Ardakova, E., Boston, C., Sugden, D. and Woodward, J.
Journal of Glaciology


Wind-driven snow redistribution can increase the spatial heterogeneity of snow accumulation on ice caps and ice sheets, and may prove crucial for the initiation and survival of glaciers in areas of marginal glaciation. We present a snowdrift model (Snow_Blow), which extends and improves the model of Purves et al. (1999). The model calculates spatial variations in relative snow accumulation that result from variations in topography, using a digital elevation model (DEM) and wind direction as inputs. Improvements include snow redistribution using a flux routing algorithm, DEM resolution independence and the addition of a slope curvature component. This paper tests Snow_Blow in Antarctica (a modern environment) and reveals its potential for application in palaeo-environmental settings, where input meteorological data are unavailable and difficult to estimate. Specifically, Snow_Blow is applied to the Ellsworth Mountains in West Antarctica where ablation is considered to be predominantly related to wind erosion processes. We find that Snow_Blow is able to replicate well the existing distribution of accumulating snow and snow erosion as recorded in and around Blue Ice Areas. Lastly, a variety of model parameters are tested, including depositional distance and erosion vs wind speed, to provide the most likely input parameters for palaeo-environmental reconstructions.

FREE EPRINT: Quantification of Hydrocarbon Abundance in Soils using Deep Learning with Dropout and Hyperspectral Data, Remote Sensing

Asmau Ahmed, Olga Duran, Yahya Zweiri, Mike Smith
Remote Sensing


Terrestrial hydrocarbon spills have the potential to cause significant soil degradation across large areas. Identification and remedial measures taken at an early stage are therefore important. Reflectance spectroscopy is a rapid remote sensing method that has proven capable of characterizing hydrocarbon-contaminated soils. In this paper, we develop a deep learning approach to estimate the amount of Hydrocarbon (HC) mixed with different soil samples using a three-term backpropagation algorithm with dropout. The dropout was used to avoid overfitting and reduce computational complexity. A Hyspex SWIR 384 m camera measured the reflectance of the samples obtained by mixing and homogenizing four different soil types with four different HC substances, respectively. The datasets were fed into the proposed deep learning neural network to quantify the amount of HCs in each dataset. Individual validation of all the dataset shows excellent prediction estimation of the HC content with an average mean square error of ~2.2×10-4. The results with remote sensed data captured by an airborne system validate the approach. This demonstrates that a deep learning approach coupled with hyperspectral imaging techniques can be used for rapid identification and estimation of HCs in soils, which could be useful in estimating the quantity of HC spills at an early stage.

FREE EPRINT: Assessment of low altitude UAS flight strategy on DEM accuracy, Earth Science Informatics

Anders, N.S., Smith, M.J., Suomalainen, J., Cammeraat, L.H., and Keesstra, S.D.
Earth Science Informatics


Soil erosion, rapid geomorphological change and vegetation degrada- tion are major threats to the human and natural environment. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can be used as tools to provide detailed and accurate estimations of landscape change. The effect of flight strategy on the accuracy of UAS image data products, typically a digital surface model (DSM) and orthophoto, is unknown. Herein different flying altitudes (126-235 m) and area coverage orientations (N-S and SW-NE) are assessed in a semi-arid and medium-relief area where terraced and abandoned agricultural fields are heavily damaged by piping and gully erosion. The assessment was with respect to cell size, vertical and horizontal accuracy, absolute difference of DSM, and registration of recognizable landscape features. The results show increasing cell size (5-9 cm) with increasing altitude, and differences between elevation values (10-20 cm) for different flight directions. Vertical accuracy ranged 4-7 cm but showed no clear relationship with flight strategy, whilst horizontal error was stable (2-4 cm) for the different orthophotos. In all data sets, geomorphological features such as piping channels, rills and gullies and vegetation patches could be labeled by a technician. Finally, the datasets have been released in a public repository.

FREE EPRINT: ‘Reading landscape’: interdisciplinary approaches to understanding, Journal of Maps

Mike J. Smith, Flora Parrott, Anna Monkman, James O’Connor and L. Rousham
Journal of Maps


This paper outlines a collaborative project between a group of Fine Art and Geography students who helped develop and contribute to a conversation about recording ‘place’. Introducing methodologies from both disciplines, the project started from the premise of all environmental ‘recordings’ being ‘inputs’ and so questioned what could be defined as ‘data’ when encountering a location. Brunel’s Grand Entrance to the Thames Tunnel (London) provided the motivation for 10 objective and subjective ‘recordings’ which were subsequently distilled into a smaller subset and then used to produce a short film that was presented at an international conference. Important to the collaborative nature of the project were ongoing opportunities to share equipment, techniques, material and references across disciplines. It was an experiment to measure the potential for ‘mapping’ to capture physical and historical information, as well as embodied experience.

FREE EPRINT: Land inundation and cropping intensity influences on organic carbon in the agricultural soils of Bangladesh, Catena

M.J. Uddin, Peter S. Hooda, A.S.M. Mohiuddin, Mike J. Smith and Martyn Waller
Catena


Land inundation is a common occurrence in Bangladesh, mainly due to the presence of two major river systems -the Brahmaputra and the Ganges. Inundation influences land use and cropping intensity. However, there is little information on the influences of the extent of flooding and cropping intensity has on soil organic carbon (SOC),particularly at the landscape level. To investigate these influences, we collected 268 surface (0-30 cm) soil samples from 4 large sites within the two alluviums deposits (the Brahmaputra river and the Ganges river), on a regular grid (1600 m). The findings show that SOC levels are generally low, reflecting the intensity of agriculture and land management practices. SOC variability was higher across the medium high land (MHL) and medium low land (MLL) sites than in the high land (HL) and low land (LL) sites. The relatively low SOC levels and variability in the HL sites indicate soils here might have reached to equilibrium levels due to higher land use intensity. Topographically higher lands (HL and MHL), due to less of inundation, had higher cropping intensities and lower SOC’s than lower lands (MLL and LL), which had lower cropping intensities, as they remain inundated for longer periods of time. The findings clearly demonstrate the intrinsic influence of land inundation in driving cropping intensity, land management practices and SOC levels.

FREE EPRINT: Summary of activities 2018, Journal of Maps

Mike J. Smith (2019)
Journal of Maps


Creativity is one of those tropes that seems to do the rounds regularly in, well, creative circles. Almost by definition, it is levelled at the arts, in part because its base definition is along the lines of the ability to create. Withinthis context, cartography is well-poised because any map requires the cartographer to create a new, unrealised, graphic product.

OPEN ACCESS EPRINT: Demystifying academics to enhance university-business collaborations in environmental science

John K. Hillier, Geoffrey R. Saville, Mike J. Smith, Alister J. Scott, Emma K. Raven, Jonathon Gascoigne, Louise J. Slater, Nevil Quinn, Andreas Tsanakas, Claire Souch, Gregor C. Leckebusch, Neil Macdonald, Alice M. Milner, Jennifer Loxton13, Rebecca Wilebore, Alexandra Collins, Colin MacKechnie, Jaqui Tweddle, Sarah Moller, MacKenzie Dove, Harry Langford, and Jim Craig (2019)
Geoscience Communication


challenge posed by a heavily time-constrained culture; specifically, tension exists between opportunities presented by working with business and non-optional duties (e.g. administration and teaching). Thus, to justify the time to work with business, such work must inspire curiosity and facilitate future novel science in order to mitigate its conflict with the overriding imperative for academics to publish. It must also provide evidence of real-world changes (i.e. impact), and ideally other reportable outcomes (e.g. official status as a business’ advisor), to feed back into the scientist’s performance appraisals. Indicatively, amid 20-50 key duties, typical full-time scientists may be able to free up to 0.5 day per week for work with business. Thus specific, pragmatic actions, including short-term and time-efficient steps, are proposed in a “user guide” to help initiate and nurture a long-term collaboration between an early- to mid-career environmental scientist and a practitioner in the insurance sector. These actions are mapped back to a tailored typology of impact and a newly created representative set of appraisal criteria to explain how they may be effective, mutually beneficial and overcome barriers. Throughout, the focus is on environmental science, with illustrative detail provided through the example of natural hazard risk modelling in the insurance sector. However, a new conceptual model of academics’ behaviour is developed, fusing perspectives from literature on academics’ motivations and performance assessment, which we propose is internationally applicable and transferable between sectors. Sector-specific details (e.g. list of relevant impacts and user guide) may serve as templates for how people may act differently to work more effectively together.

FREE EPRINT: Summary of activities 2017, Journal of Maps

Mike J. Smith (2018)
Journal of Maps


As a journal we notionally have two overlapping sets of “customers” - readers and authors. Authors provide the content whilst readers consume it. In a subscription funding model, readers pay for journal production, whilst in an open access (OA) model, authors pay. Somewhat uniquely in publishing, advertising plays a very limited part. And akin to commercial publishing, we have an overall journal editor (or Editor-in-Chief) and section editors (or Associate Editors).

FREE EPRINT: Hybrid Spectral Unmixing: Using Artificial Neural Networks for Linear/ Non-Linear Switching

Asmau M Ahmed, Olga Duran, Yahya Zweiri and Mike Smith
Remote Sensing


Spectral unmixing is a key process in identifying spectral signature of materials and quantifying their spatial distribution over an image. The linear model is expected to provide acceptable results when two assumptions are satisfied: (1) The mixing process should occur at macroscopic level and (2) Photons must interact with single material before reaching the sensor. However, these assumptions do not always hold and more complex nonlinear models are required. This study proposes a new hybrid method for switching between linear and nonlinear spectral unmixing of hyperspectral data based on artificial neural networks. The neural networks was trained with parameters within a window of the pixel under consideration. These parameters are computed to represent the diversity of the neighboring pixels and are based on the Spectral Angular Distance, Covariance and a non linearity parameter. The endmembers were extracted using Vertex Component Analysis while the abundances were estimated using the method identified by the neural networks (Vertex Component Analysis, Fully Constraint Least Square Method, Polynomial Post Nonlinear Mixing Model or Generalized Bilinear Model). Results show that the hybrid method performs better than each of the individual techniques with high overall accuracy, while the abundance estimation error is significantly lower than that obtained using the individual methods. Experiments on both synthetic dataset and real hyperspectral images demonstrated that the proposed hybrid switch method is efficient for solving spectral unmixing of hyperspectral images as compared to individual algorithms.

Cameras and settings for aerial surveys in the geosciences: optimizing image data

James O’Connor, Mike Smith, Mike R. James (2017)
Progress in Physical Geography


Aerial image capture has become very common within the geosciences due to the increasing affordability of low payload (<20 kg) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for consumer markets. Their application to surveying has subsequently led to many studies being undertaken using UAV imagery and derived products as primary data sources. However, image quality and the principles of image capture are seldom given rigorous discussion. In this contribution we firstly revisit the underpinning concepts behind image capture, from which the requirements for acquiring sharp, well exposed and suitable image data are derived. Secondly, the platform, camera, lens and imaging settings relevant to image quality planning are discussed, with worked examples to guide users through the process of considering the factors required for capturing high quality imagery for geoscience investigations.

Given a target feature size and ground sample distance based on mission objectives, flight height and velocity should be calculated to ensure motion blur is kept to a minimum. We recommend using a camera with as big a sensor as is permissible for the aerial platform being used (to maximise sensor sensitivity), effective focal lengths of 24 - 35 mm (to minimize errors due to lens distortion) and optimising ISO (to ensure shutter speed is fast enough to minimise motion blur). Finally, we give recommendations for the reporting of results by researchers in order to help improve the confidence in, and reusability of, surveys through: providing open access imagery where possible, presenting example images and excerpts, and detailing appropriate metadata to rigorously describe the image capture process.

FREE EPRINT: Summary of activities 2016, Journal of Maps

Mike J. Smith (2017)
Journal of Maps


As you will see with this Editorial, it has been a year ofintense activity at the Journal of Maps (JoM). The mostimportant announcement is the move of JoM back toan Open Access (OA) publishing model which waseffective from 1st September 2016.

FREE EPRINT: Selecting cameras for UAV surveys, GIM International

James O’Connor and Mike J. Smith (2016)
GIM International


With the boom in the use of consumer-grade cameras on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveying and photogrammetric applications, this article seeks to review a range of different cameras and their critical attributes. Firstly, it establishes the most important considerations when selecting a camera for surveying. Secondly, the authors make a number of recommendations at various price points.

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Holocene Book Review: Emanuela Casti, Reflexive Cartography: A New Perspective in Mapping

Mike J. Smith (2016)
The Holocene


Elsevier’s Modern Cartography Series, edited by Professor DR Fraser Taylor, is a long-running occasional series that currently comprises seven volumes, the first published in 1991. With a hia-tus since 2006, Elsevier has injected some new vigour with a title planned for 2017 and this volume, Reflexive Cartography, pub-lished in 2015.

OPEN ACCESS EPRINT: Exploring Explanations of Subglacial Bedform Sizes Using Statistical Models

John K.Hillier, Ioannis A Kougioumtzoglou, Chris R.Stokes, Michael J. Smith, Chris D. Clark, Matteo Spagnolo (in press)
PLOS ONE


Sediments beneath modern ice sheets exert a key control on their flow, but are largely inaccessible except through geophysics or boreholes. In contrast, palaeo-ice sheet beds are accessible, and typically characterised by numerous bedforms. However, the interaction between bedforms and ice flow is poorly constrained and it is not clear how bedform sizes might reflect ice flow conditions. To better understand this link we present a first exploration of a variety of statistical models to explain the size distribution of some common subglacial bedforms (i.e., drumlins, ribbed moraine, MSGL). By considering a range of models, constructed to reflect key aspects of the physical processes, it is possible to infer that the size distributions are most effectively explained when the dynamics of ice-water-sediment interaction associated with bedform growth is fundamentally random. A ‘stochastic instability’ (SI) model, which integrates random bedform growth and shrinking through time with exponential growth, is preferred and is consistent with other observations of palaeo-bedforms and geophysical surveys of active ice sheets. Furthermore, we give a proof-of-concept demonstration that our statistical approach can bridge the gap between geomorphological observations and physical models, directly linking measurable size-frequency parameters to properties of ice sheet flow (e.g., ice velocity). Moreover, statistically developing existing models as proposed allows quantitative predictions to be made about sizes, making the models testable; a first illustration of this is given for a hypothesised repeat geophysical survey of bedforms under active ice. Thus, we further demonstrate the potential of size-frequency distributions of subglacial bedforms to assist the elucidation of subglacial processes and better constrain ice sheet models.

Journal of Maps Best Maps

The Map Room highlighted the Journal of Maps Best Maps today in this blog post. Our Best Maps are freely available, but since being published in partnership with Taylor and Francis we have become subscription based which means everything up to 2012 is open access.

FYI, and I’ve written about this in my editorials on several occasions, publishing a journal is not a “no-cost” opration. Increasingly, in order to meet the expected standards of readers, authors, funders and the general public, there are a number of quality requirements. So, in short, someone, somewhere, at somepoint, has to pay for publication. That can be the reader (subscription), the author (open access) or some hybrid (cross-subsidy!). It’s something we always keep under review at the Journal of Maps - unfortunately no model suits everyone.

FREE EPRINT: Editorial: summary of activities 2015

Smith, M.J. (2016)
Journal of Maps


What is a map? A seemingly innocuous question that is deftly handled by the International Cartographic Association (ICA, 2015) as

“a symbolised representation of geographical reality, representing selected features or characteristics, resulting from the creative effort of its author’s execution of choices, and is designed for use when spatial relationships are of primary relevance.”“

CLustre: semi-automated lineament clustering for palaeo-glacial reconstruction

Smith, M.J., Anders, N. and Keesstra, S.D. (in press)
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms


Datasets containing large numbers (>10,000) of glacial lineaments are increasingly being mapped from remotely sensed data in order to develop a palaeo-glacial reconstruction or “inversion”. The palimpsest landscape presents a complex record of past ice flow and deconstructing this information into a logical history is an involved task. One stage in this process requires the identification of sets of genetically linked lineaments that can form the basis of a reconstruction.

This paper presents a semi-automated algorithm, CLustre, for lineament clustering that uses a locally adaptive, region growing, methodology. After outlining the algorithm, it is tested on synthetic datasets that simulate parallel and orthogonal cross-cutting lineaments, encompassing 1,500 separate classifications. Results show robust classification in most scenarios, although parallel overlap of lineaments can cause false positive classification unless there are differences in lineament length. Case studies for Dubawnt Lake and Victoria Island, Canada, are presented and compared to existing datasets. For Dubawnt Lake 9 out of 14 classifications directly match incorporating 89% of lineaments. For Victoria Island 57 out of 58 classifications directly match incorporating 95% of lineaments. Differences are related to small numbers of unclassified lineaments and parallel cross-cutting lineaments that are of a similar length.

CLustre enables the automated, repeatable, assignment of lineaments to flow sets using defined user criteria. This is important as qualitative visual interpretation may introduce bias, potentially weakening the testability of palaeo-glacial reconstructions. In addition, once classified, summary statistics of lineament clusters can be calculated and subsequently used during the reconstruction process.

OPEN ACCESS EPRINT: Optimising UAV image quality using consumer cameras

O’Connor, J. and Smith, M.J. (2015)
Geomatics World

Surveys using UAVs and photogrammetry are becoming ubiquitous. It is in the community’s best interests to remember the fundamentals of image capture. James O’Connor and Mike J Smith of the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Kingston University review the main considerations for image capture when undertaking an aerial survey using consumer grade cameras and make recommendations for acquiring the best imagery.