Thumbing a Nose at Mother Nature: Survey at the Desktop
Mother Nature really pulled a joke on us this year. Up to 7 feet of snow blanketed parts of western New York, then flooding; Detroit already has seen its seasonal snowfall; Buffalo 8 feet of snow in one day; 80 percent of California is in either extreme or exceptional drought; lava flowing like molasses in Hawaii and in the Midwest where the temperature can swing in extremes of 100 degrees we do not welcome the frigid temperatures we have seen before Thanksgiving.
As a land surveyor in the Midwest we learn to acclimate to extreme weather, however according to Survival Magazine it is easier to acclimate to heat than it is to cold. Query any job description for a land surveyor and they all state “must be able to work in extreme weather conditions.” After all, love of nature is one of the reason we land surveyors have chosen the profession we are in, to be outdoors. The weather can affect a project in many ways: scheduling, budget, and equipment. Instruments have certain temperature tolerance ratings, and if operated outside that range, the accuracy of the measurement can be affected or the equipment can refuse to perform at all. Now add weather conditions to the additional duties of the principles and practices of land surveying; accurate arithmetic computations legible record results; making engineering sketches, maps and drawings; and reading and interpreting the engineering plans and specifications all while fighting the elements it becomes a mix for project breakdown.
It’s no wonder that recently included in the land surveyors job description is a prerequisite for “knowledge of principles, practices and materials that could include computer programs used in survey work”. In my early days as a professional land surveyor it was challenging enough to apply the knowledge of land surveying to land surveying activities and techniques in adverse weather. Like the instruments we used where extreme cold weather or heat can affect the outcome so can the user.
The Famer’s Almanac gives us many euphemisms about the effects of weather…
“How slow is molasses in January?” Field productivity in extreme cold with layers of clothing all slow us down. Gloves can be a nuisance when attempting to push those little buttons on an instrument or take legible notes.
“How mad is a wet hen?” When rain or snow affects visibility it also become a safety issue especially on slick pavement. What affects the surveyor also impairs the traveling public and any surveyor will tell you a slick highway is not a place to be. I guess it is one premise that led me to forming Terrametrix mobile mapping, you are inside a vehicle collecting the data plus the added benefit of a heater or air conditioner.
Out of the Red Zone is the driving safety for the land surveyor using mobile mapping. Traveling with traffic at highway speed obtaining hundreds of thousands of 3d measureable points per second is a much safer way to acquire as-built data. No longer does the surveyor need to fight traffic measuring bridges clearances or attempting to shoot cross sections on a busy stretch of roadway. An important part of any mission plan is to look at the weather forecast for any adverse conditions. The weather can determine if a project needs to be moved ahead of a weather event such as a snow storm or pushed back to miss a period of rain. Once the mobile mapping data is collected faster between weather events the surveyor can then extract the data by walking a topo at the desktop out of harms way. It still takes the spatial recognition of the land surveyor and the mobile mapping data allows the surveyor to extract digital terrain models using cross sections at whatever interval the surveyor wishes or a grid at any interval as well. It makes it easy to create 25’ shots along a roadway and then have the ability to create a small interval grid at any interval in a flat area that needs a higher definition grid to show the contour line correctly. Again the keen eye of a surveyor knows where the digital terrain model needs information in order to correctly show the contours. The only down side I see is we no longer have an excuse for snow days! We can stay in the warm and dry office and still walk the topo, now that’s efficiency.
Oh and by the way the Farmer’s Almanac predicts that this winter is expected to be another cold one in the eastern half to two-thirds of the nation with above-normal temperatures, on average, in the West.
SAFETY drives us, ACCURACY defines us, EFFICIENCY saves you.