New online lidar databases puts geologic hazard information at your fingertips

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has pre-released a beta version of its new lidar database to make information on geologic hazards impacting Washington communities available with the click of a mouse.

ger_lidar_cloud“This portal puts lidar data at the fingertips of scientists and others interested in geology,” said State Geologist Dave Norman. “As this database continues to grow, it will become increasingly important to understanding the state’s complex geology and its impacts for all who live in Washington.”

One-third of the Washington Lidar Portal data slated for inclusion is currently available in this version. By the end of March, the remaining two-thirds of lidar data that covers much of the populated areas of the state will be available to developers, land use planners, emergency management officials, engineers and scientists across Washington.

ger_lidar_flightLidar (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers mounted on aircraft to scope topography by measuring reflected light. Those beams of light infiltrate the forest canopy, ground cover and human development to allow mappers and scientists to see the topography of landforms below with pinpoint accuracy.

planeEarlier this year, DNR hired pilots to collect new aerial lidar data in western Washington.
The portal is a collection of lidar from DNR’s inventory, projects from the Puget Sound Lidar Consortium as well as data donated from counties and cities.DNR is also working to better locate and map historic, deep-seated landslides, which are the top predictor of where future slides may occur.In 2015, the Washington State Legislature mandated that the Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Earth Resources collect, analyze, and publicly distribute detailed information about our state’s geology using the best available technology – lidar.Before lidar, geologists used aerial photographs, topographic maps, and field surveys to catalog landslides. This method is problematic in Washington because of the density of vegetation that often obscures features.

Landslides in the Cedar River Valley near North Bend are obscured by vegetation in aerial photos, at left. Lidar was used in the image on the right to strip away trees and show land forms and past slides in the valley.

Landslides often have characteristic topography that is obvious once it’s visible. Slump blocks, hummocky topography, scarps, sag ponds can all identify a landslide. With lidar, a geologist can go over large tracts of land to find landslides quickly and more accurately than using aerial photographs alone.

Want to know more about how LiDAR is collected? Check out the “What is LiDAR?” tab on our website and watch an informative video here, by NEON Education.

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