Celebrating the sixth annual GIS Day; NGS adds to online geodetic toolkit; and NOAA releases experimental ionosphere products for GPS users.

Celebrating the Sixth Annual GIS Day

Hundreds of events were held in 73 countries around the world on Nov. 17, 2004, to celebrate the sixth annual GIS Day. Visitors and students wandering around the Idaho State University campus in Pocatello found helium-filled balloons printed to look like globes with trivia cards attached. After finding the balloons, visitors brought them to the university's GIS Center and answered the trivia questions to claim prizes. More than 150 visitors came and stayed in the center to learn more about GIS. That's the point of national GIS Day-to inform more people about the applications of geographic information system technology.

LandAmerica Tax and Flood in Covina, Calif., invited its corporate office employees to a four-hour open house explaining how GIS is used in the company. To make the event more exciting, the GIS staff of LandAmerica created a quiz challenging participants' knowledge of the world's flags. Flags from countries around the world were posted on a wall, and underneath each was a hint about the country. Each attendee was challenged to match the flag to the country, and those with perfect scores were awarded prizes. Everyone who participated received GIS Day pencils, stickers and buttons, as well as a chance to try the cake decorated with the GIS Day logo.

College students in Iowa experienced a more academic celebration of GIS Day. More than 120 people attended a seminar sponsored by the Eastern Iowa GIS User Group and Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa, on GIS Day. Attendees included not only students, but also people from all levels of government and private business. Topics addressed at the seminar included a broad range of GIS and GPS applications, including geodatabase implementation, data management, metadata issues, orthoimagery standards and applications.

GIS Day also included students at the high school level. Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Vicksburg, Miss., demonstrated GIS software to more than 450 ninth graders at Vicksburg High School. Over the course of two days, the USACE staff showed the students applications of GIS using ESRI (Redlands, Calif.) ArcGIS 9 with 3D Analyst, ArcScene and ArcGlobe.

These are just a few highlights from the day's events; many other schools and businesses around the world participated in GIS Day 2004. This grassroots event is principally sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, University Con-sortium for Geographic Information Science, the United States Geological Survey, The Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and ESRI. GIS Day 2005 will be celebrated on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005.

NGS Adds to Online Geodetic Toolkit

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) announced additions to its online Geodetic Toolkit, which offers interactive computation of geodetic values. Users can now submit their GPS data online to have it processed by the NGS ADJUST software, which performs a least squares adjustment on horizontal, vertical angle and/or GPS observations. Also available are four data checking programs that check, compare and modify files. These services can be accessed at www.geodesy.noaa.gov/TOOLS/ADJUST/ and are also available for download.

NOAA Releases Experimental Ionosphere Products for GPS Users

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Environment Center (SEC) released a new experimental ionospheric product at the beginning of November. The SEC product was created to help precision surveyors, emergency managers, and commercial and general aviation users to quickly assess the effects of free electrons and solar storms on GPS applications. The ionosphere, the area of the Earth's atmosphere that begins at an altitude of about 30 miles and extends upwards to 10,000 miles, is the layer of the earth's atmosphere that contains free electrons and ionized atoms. The ionosphere fluctuates with solar activity, and under severe conditions has interrupted communication and electrical power over wide areas. The ionosphere also has a severe impact on the signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

The new web-based SEC product called the USTEC map is a near real-time ionospheric specification map of total electron content (TEC). Located online at www.sec.noaa.gov/ustec/, the primary display shows the vertical TEC over the continental United States. Secondary displays include an estimate of the uncertainty in the map, and the recent trend based on the departure of the TEC from the previous 10-day average. In addition, ASCII text files of the vertical and slant path TEC are available.

The map automatically updates online every 15 minutes and aids users affected by ionospheric conditions to quickly assess the current situation that may impact their systems. The USTEC map is an experimental product; its evaluation period began Nov. 1, 2004, and will last until March 22, 2005. Feedback from users is requested through an electronic survey form.