Driver gets stuck with his car on a flooded avenue during heavy rains. N. Antoine/Shutterstock

This week, severe rains in the Northeastern city of Salvador caused around 300 people to be displaced as rivers burst their banks, homes were flooded and 114 landslides were recorded by municipal police forces. In the Southeast, Rio de Janeiro is battered by torrential rain and mudslides on an annual basis, often claiming lives in the process. Authorities have been criticized for not working hard enough to minimize the effects of these disasters (which many attribute to climate change), while the scientific community is seeking funding to further its ability to monitor the country’s territory and help combat such tragedies.

The following article was originally written by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). 

</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-twitter wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="550" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">VIDEO: Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, is on alert after heavy rainfall. Subways have been affected and traffic is intense in the central regions <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BrazilianReport?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BrazilianReport</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Salvador?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Salvador</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bahia?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bahia</a> <a href="https://t.co/cUyj7frYdI">pic.twitter.com/cUyj7frYdI</a></p>&mdash; The Brazilian Report (@BrazilianReport) <a href="https://twitter.com/BrazilianReport/status/1199335143443292160?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 26, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> </div></figure> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>Brazil and 13 other Latin American countries that have already adopted the Geocentric Reference System for the Americas (<a href="http://www.sirgas.org/en/">SIRGAS</a>) are now preparing to follow United Nations recommendations and comply with the Global Geodetic Reference Frame. The platform involves the measurement of the Earth, based on its position in space, gravitational field and shape, which is fundamental information for the management of <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/07/07/brazilian-port-city-santos-climate-change/">climate change</a> and natural disasters.</p> <p>In order to meet the UN proposal, the international geoscience and geodesy community is trying to drum up funds by raising the awareness of governments and multilateral organizations. &#8220;The United Nations resolution opened the possibility of alerting governments that geodesy is a state concern, strategic to the governance of a country. The governments must provide economic support so that an agency such as the IBGE [Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics] will have funds available whenever it has to build a station,&#8221; said Laura Sanchez, a researcher at the Technical University of Munich and former vice-president of SIRGAS.</p> <p>The topic was discussed at the 2019 SIRGAS Symposium, which was attended by leading international geodesy organizations, experts from 14 Latin American countries, and representatives from Germany, the United States, Austria, and Italy. The event was organized by IBGE and the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) between November 11 to 14, at the IBGE&#8217;s Center of Documentation and Information Dissemination (CDDI).</p> <p>Luiz Paulo Souto Fortes, head of UERJ&#8217;s Cartographic Engineering Department, highlighted that the symposium has been held since 1993, when the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) created the SIRGAS.</p> <p>&#8220;The SIRGAS initiative has implemented a common geodesic reference infrastructure in Latin America that is considered just as important as energy, sanitation or telecoms infrastructures, providing the reference for the positioning of any point, anywhere in the region, for applications such as engineering works and infrastructure,” explained Mr. Fortes.</p> <p>William Martinez, an expert of the Colombian National Mining Agency and current SIRGAS president, said that Colombia adopted SIRGAS in 2005 and saw progress in terms of granulometry, permanent stations, and data processing, as well as the strengthening of various academic sectors and companies that were created.</p> <p>&#8220;To date, 14 countries in the region have adopted SIRGAS on a national level. The adoption of SIRGAS depends on the internal situation of each country, as many do not have the resources. Now, being a United Nations recommendation, the management of geospatial information will surely strengthen technical centers such as the IBGE,” said Mr. Martinez.</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed-youtube wp-block-embed is-type-video is-provider-youtube wp-embed-aspect-16-9 wp-has-aspect-ratio"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="embed-youtube" style="text-align:center; display: block;"><iframe class='youtube-player' type='text/html' width='1200' height='675' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/TFYbPhuVgoQ?version=3&#038;rel=1&#038;fs=1&#038;autohide=2&#038;showsearch=0&#038;showinfo=1&#038;iv_load_policy=1&#038;wmode=transparent' allowfullscreen='true' style='border:0;'></iframe></span> </div></figure> <h2>Brazil at the top table</h2> <p>IBGE’s director of geosciences, João Bosco de Azevedo, notes that SIRGAS provides support to satellite positioning systems such as the U.S.-owned GPS, or the Russian system GLONASS. He highlights that, as well as hosting the event for the first time, the IBGE gained even more prominence in the international geoscience community after the election of Sonia Costa—IBGE’s geodesy manager—to the presidency of SIRGAS for the next four years. &#8220;Brazil adopted SIRGAS in 2005 and is already able to adopt the global system recommended by the UN,&#8221; said Mr. Azevedo.</p> <p>Sonia Costa says that the choice of a representative from Brazil shows the importance of the country on the continent and its significance in the production of geoinformation, not only in the field of geodesy, but also in cartography and spatial data infrastructure.</p> <p>&#8220;Geodesy is the reference layer for all georeferenced information. Until 2005, we had an old methodology, there were no satellite systems and the cartography of different countries could not be integrated. Today there are already four systems that make up the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System)—GPS, GLONASS, Galileo (European Union) and Beidou (China)—which facilitates the monitoring of natural disasters and allow alerts to be triggered. Japan expects to have centrometric accuracy by next year,&#8221; said Ms. Costa.</p> <h2>Systems to fight climate change</h2> <p>Hector Rovera, an expert at the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, linked to the Organization of American States (OAS), pointed out that while many countries adopt their own systems, the UN resolution will allow the whole world will adopt a global system to better monitor climate change and natural disasters. There is also a push for the U.S. and Canada to adopt the system so that SIRGAS may properly address the Americas as a whole.</p> <p>&#8220;The U.S. and Canada are lagging behind, using technology-based systems from 1983, and now they will have to switch everything to the international benchmark that is 100 percent consistent with satellite systems like SIRGAS,&#8221; said Hermann Drewes, the deputy secretary-general of IAG and a representative of SIRGAS.</p> <p>The president of the SIRGAS working group, Victor Cioce, said that this is not a problem, but simply a matter of organization, as the systems used by the two countries are compatible with SIRGAS. &#8220;There has been great progress in the implementation of SIRGAS. What is missing is a vertical reference system, but there are no uniform local physical systems,” he summarized.</p> <p>Maria Virginia Mackern, vice president of SIRGAS and a researcher at the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina, highlighted the progress of SIRGAS in establishing a geometric framework. Now, in addition to densifying the use of SIRGAS on a nationwide level, the goal is to establish an altimetric framework so that SIRGAS is also the vertical reference benchmark.</p> <p>Today, each country has a vertical system and unifying standards is one of the main issues that mobilize the geodetic community. Mr. Drewes says that this is one of the organization&#8217;s challenges, besides analyzing and calculating all the effects of global climate change, developing marine geodesy, and adopting modern techniques.</p> <p>&#8220;The vertical reference system is a challenge because several countries have measurement systems in place at different sea levels—Brazil has two, while Chile has five. We are working to solve this problem scientifically and this needs the support of local governments. The UN has already decided that the global system is a necessity for sustainable development around the world. Thus, we believe it is possible to request financial aid from the UN and World Bank,” said Mr. Drewes.

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