Aceh: A View on the Globe*
Professor of Mathematical
Geography and Population-Environment
of Natural Resources and Environment
The University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor
Please set screen to highest
resolution and use a high speed internet connection.
Please download the most recent free version of Google Earth®. Make sure the "Terrain"
box in Google Earth® is checked.
26, 2004. A devastating earthquake (9+ on the Richter scale) hit
the Indian Ocean from an epicenter just to the west of Sumatra.
Killer tsunamis followed this earthquake. These affected severely
much of the populated area on the Indian Ocean perimeter. Much
has been written about the events and scholars from a wide range of
disciplines have analyzed it from numerous perspectives [see a few
Internet references below]. One way to look at the current status
of the affected region around Banda Aceh, a city in northern Sumatra to
the northeast of the earthquake epicenter, is to view the region in Google Earth®
1 shows a direct screenshot from Google Earth® Scroll
across the image; notice destroyed bridges. Much land remains
inundated, especially of course along the coast. If one
supposes that a tsunami wave might have been 30 meters in depth, then
one imagines a sheet of water coming in from the northern tip of
Sumatra and extending inland as far as the 30 meter terrain
contour. Click here to see a movie,
made in Google Earth® ,
of the devastation surrounding a sequence of markers placed along the
coastal region just to the north of Banda Aceh (the movie file is over
47 MB in size).
Figure 1. The Banda Aceh region, two years after a hit by a
track the 30 foot contour in Google Earth®,
placemarks were located in that software on top of pointer positions at
the 30 meter level. Try it yourself in Google Earth®.
Download the placemarks file, created by hand, from the box
above. Figure 2 shows one screen shot of that file. As
expected, there is an inset area away from the coast adjacent to Banda
Aceh. Also, though, there is a channel that cuts through to the
western coast of Sumatra in the direction on the earthquake
epicenter. This channel might have served as a back door for a
double-effect hit. Look at the evidence of screen shots in
Figures 2 and 3; look at the intersection of coastal zone and the
extension from the channel. It appears to have been particularly
hard-hit. Drive around in Google Earth®
and see for yourself. What do you think? Does the fact that
the western Sumatra "backdoor" entry is wide at the coast, and then
narrows to a channel through the highlands suggest even further piling
up of waters (much as with tides in the Bay of Fundy)? If so, one
might expect to see damage above the 30 meter levels--Google Earth®offers
that opportunity. Might simple, clear advice in the face of disaster
simply be the common sense approach to seek out the high ground (here,
perhaps, above 30 meters)? Observations such
as these, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art support systems,
might help guide future research or relief projects.
Figure 2. Banda Aceh. Light cyan dots trace out 30 meter
contour. Red and white circles mark previous nearby earthquake
activity (the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 occurred farther to the
west and does not appear here).
Figure 3 A view toward the west. Scroll across as well as
* The author wishes to thank Kris
M.B.A., President Community Systems Foundation, 219 S. Main
Street, Suite 206, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, for his suggestion of Banda
Aceh as a region of interest to consider using this technology.
An Electronic Journal of Geography and Mathematics
, Volume XVII,
Institute of Mathematical Geography (IMaGe).
All rights reserved worldwide, by IMaGe and by the authors.
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