USGS iCoast: Did the Coast Change?
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy’s intense wind and waves reshaped hundreds of miles of coastline. After Sandy made landfall, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists took an unprecedented 9,000 aerial photos of the shoreline from Montauk, N.Y., to Cape Lookout, N.C. Surprisingly, although the damage in the aerial photos is obvious to human eyes, computers have a tough time quantifying it. The photos have too many topographical variables, from dunes and roads to marshes and beaches.
“It’s like asking a face recognition [program] to also recognize different species, age and mood,” says USGS oceanographer Nathaniel Plant. Help the agency document the damage by comparing before-and-after photos of the coast with the online app USGS iCoast: Did the Coast Change?
After creating a free account, you’ll analyze pre- and post-storm images, identifying various features and noticeable changes to the landscape.
These real-world observations will help USGS scientists fine-tune their models and improve their damage predictions before the next big storm. The USGS collects an average of 3,000 aerial images per storm, so iCoast will be expanded to include past storms and those that hit our coasts in the future.