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Monitoring Application to Detect Climate Change in New Zealand

Climate change threatens to increase vulnerability, undermine economic gains, stymie social and economic development, and deteriorate citizens’ access to basic services and quality of life around the world. ICTs (information and communication technologies) have the potential to help address some of the world’s most pressing climate concerns and enable the much-needed shift toward a circular economy (CE). ICTs can be tools for monitoring climate change and for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Every day, the digital world evolves from simple applications to weather forecasting applications. This suggests that the digital revolution can help with climate action and that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help with monitoring, mitigating, and adapting to climate change effects.

In this case, New Zealand’s natural hazard monitoring platform which includes more than 700 sensors nationwide and the 24/7 National Geohazards Monitoring Centre supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, has been a ‘life saver’ for all the residents including scientists. The climate change monitor is a smartphone application available on Android and iOS operating systems that provides earthquake hazard information and alerts in New Zealand. The application is free of charge and notifications can be set based on location and intensity, magnitude, and depth.

The near-instant data streams on earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanoes are critical in assisting residents in understanding natural hazards and better managing and mitigating the impact of those hazards.

Prior to the release of this app, seismic monitoring relied on analogue seismometers with taper paper, which could take weeks to analyse. The monitors were frequently placed on farms in remote areas, and “rapid” assessment after an event meant a scientist calling the farmer and politely asking them to walk into their paddock to cheque the paper and report back.

Fast-forward 20 years and near-instant updates on the location and strength of any seismic activity have become standard, both for scientists and for everyday New Zealanders via the app and website. For scientists, having the monitor system as a powerhouse pocket is a goldmine. In addition to gaining a better long-term understanding of New Zealand’s natural hazards, they are witnessing the development of innovative earthquake activity models that may provide them with a better view of the future. These models can now be rigorously tested using years of real-world data.

The monitor not only provides raw data for nearly all research into hazards that could affect New Zealand, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, or tsunamis, but it also informs a wide range of research projects into mitigation initiatives, such as better engineering solutions for buildings and infrastructure to withstand the impacts of the hazards faced.

The application data and associated science also contribute to the development of risk models that scientists use to forecast the financial impact of various natural hazard scenarios. Furthermore, scientists use this modelling to secure reinsurance on international markets for New Zealand homeowners. Other features of the app include:

  • Provides a notification after a quake occurs.
  • Option to set multiple notifications based on location and intensity, or magnitude and depth.
  • Option to see recent earthquakes in a filterable list or map.
  • Option to share quake info through social media.

Today, the monitoring app has become an integral part of New Zealanders’ daily lives, with hundreds of thousands of kiwis carrying this data powerhouse in their pockets on their phones.

Another issue that needs to be brought to the attention of more people is the rapidly changing state of our environment. With the rapid advancement of technology, mobile apps may be the ideal tool for the job. There are several apps available that are specifically designed to raise environmental awareness among the public. Furthermore, these apps are intended to help people better understand climate change and take additional actions to help the environment.

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