The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

January 21, 2008

Geographic center at WVU enables advanced terrain mapping online

MORGANTOWN — Want to know the lay of the land for an outdoor adventure in West Virginia?

It’s easier now for nature enthusiasts and professionals to view accurate, detailed terrain maps showing elevation, thanks to the West Virginia State Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technical Center, housed in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University.

Data created by the center is now being featured in the “Terrain” view option of Google Maps, http://maps. google.com, a free online service which recently launched new 3-D mapping.

“Understanding terrain can have enormous benefits for a range of applications,” said research associate Frank Lafone. “Industries as varied as tourism, outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, real estate, land development and agriculture benefit from accurate understanding of terrain.”

Because the geographic center at WVU has developed some of the most detailed publically available terrain data in the world, the effect is particularly impressive when viewing maps of West Virginia, he said.

The center created detailed elevation data in 2006. The year-long process drew on a variety of resources, including aerial photography flown over the state in 2003.

Support from the U.S. Geologic Survey, West Virginia Department of Transportation and the West Virginia Statewide Addressing and Mapping Board helped ensure that a quality product was created, Lafone said.

Elevation information for the entire planet is now available in Google Maps, but no area of the Earth is as detailed as West Virginia, Lafone said. Most of the Earth is displayed at 90-meter resolution, which represents an area of the earth 90-by-90 meters in size. The United States is represented at a resolution of 10 meters, but only West Virginia has information at the finest scale, three meters, according to Lafone. Finer resolution means the data represents the world more accurately.

Google Maps is not the only outlet for this data. The center also maintains http://www.mapwv.gov. This Web site features publically accessible applications using elevation as well as more than 50 other types of geographic data. The site contains a wealth of information, including trout stream maps, flood hazard mapping, public school information and general base maps.

The GIS Technical Center at WVU works with state agencies, nonprofits, individual users and academic institutions to maintain and improve the spatial data infrastructure for West Virginia. More information is available at http://www.wvgis.wvu.edu.

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