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Cesium Story Highlights Turkey-Syria Earthquake Open Data

In late April, Dr. Hidenori Watanave, Cesium Certified Developer and long-time community member, spoke at the Stratcom Disaster Communication Forum in Ankara, Turkey, where he shared the Cesium Story he has been updating since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria in February.

A number of organizations made data available to aid disaster response, including Maxar, BlackSky, and Planet Labs. In one day, Watanave built his app to make satellite imagery and other open data accessible to the public and provide insights into that data. Watanave’s Cesium Story began with 12 slides in early February and has more than 280 as of this writing.

It took Watanave one day to build his app that shares satellite imagery over areas affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake in February 2023. Courtesy Hidenori Watanave.

With current data, humanitarian organizations can assess the status of roads to reach affected communities, and citizens around the world can see the effects of the earthquake. Grassy, tree-lined spaces are dotted with debris, buildings are destroyed, and tents have been set up.

Cesium Stories include Cesium World Terrain and Bing Maps Aerial imagery from Cesium ion to provide accurate geospatial context, with no need to write code. Story creators upload their data to Cesium ion, and even large datasets are tiled and streamed to anyone with the link.

One key visualization was tracing the fault line along which the earthquake occurred, showing the rupture from Kahramanmaras to Islahiye, Turkey. (You can see this starting on slide 21 in Watanave’s Cesium Story.) Watanave collaborated with Dr. Masashi Omata, an expert from Pasco, a Japanese geoinformation company. Browsing the data together, they discovered the fault line.

Watanave and Omata discovered the fault line as they explored the open data. Courtesy Hidenori Watanave.

In this Cesium Story’s first week, it had more than 30,000 views, 90% of which were from Turkey—indicating the data reached the people who needed it most. 

Watanave has also continually updated a Cesium Story that shows the damage from the war in Ukraine, which has been featured in a major Japanese newspaper to provide interactive context to readers. In continuing his work to digitally archive and communicate memories of wars and disasters, Watanave and his lab were among the first recipients of the Cesium Ecosystem Grants.

You can create and share your own Cesium Story with a free Cesium ion account and our tutorial.