An article recently published in the online journal Earthzine, which is sponsored by the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO), highlighted the use of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Giovanni data visualization and analysis tool for research on public health. The article noted that the diversity of data that are available in Giovanni, along with the system’s analytical speed and ease-of-use, has resulted in the use of Giovanni in many different research projects which have examined connections between environmental variables to public health concerns.
The article divided remotely-sensed and model variables available in Giovanni into three tiers of applicability to public health research. The Tier 1 variables, which have a demonstrated direct connection to public health, include precipitation, surface temperature, atmospheric aerosols, and atmospheric gases. Precipitation and temperature data have been analyzed for their influence on infectious disease occurrence and transmission. Infectious diseases that have been researched include malaria, cholera, and influenza. Precipitation data are also useful for the investigation of the causes and occurrence of dangerous floods.
Atmospheric aerosol data have been used to examine the effects of biomass burning and desert dust on air quality. Atmospheric gas data, notably ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been used to monitor and describe the influence of natural processes and human activities on air quality.
Tier 2 variables are those variables which can be related to a public health concern. Included in this classification are chlorophyll concentration and water clarity data for coastal marine waters and lakes, which are related directly to water quality and may also indicate the occurrence of harmful or toxic algal blooms. The data can also be used to research other water quality issues, such as the occurrence of brightly colored water in Lake Ontario in August 2013 initially thought to be composed of potentially toxic blue-green algae. Water quality analysis indicated that it was actually harmless, a natural event called a whiting in which solid calcium carbonate particles form in the water. Nonetheless, there may have been some concern about using this turbid water for drinking and recreation.
Ozone data is included in this tier because the relationship between stratospheric ozone depletion, increased ultraviolet radiation at the Earth’s surface, and the exposure of athletes engaged in outdoor sports activities to potentially harmful UV radiation has also been investigated with Giovanni.
The Tier 3 variables in Giovanni that could find use for public health science are those which are related to weather and climate. Snowfall data, runoff data, and wind speed are described as relevant to the study of drought occurrence, water resources, and agricultural success, all of which are important to public health, resource allocation, disaster planning, and quality-of-life.