How cartographers helped clean up after 9/11

This image, made using a laser mapping technology called LIDAR, was taken on September 17, 2001. It shows a 3-D model of the rubble left behind in lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Minnesota Public Radio's Paul Tosto has a really interesting peek into the way mapping techniques like LIDAR were used to help rescuers and clean-up crew understand the extent of the damage, look for survivors, and rehabilitate the area around the disaster zone.

The Library of Congress work also includes data from a a thermal sensor flown at 5,000 feet over Ground Zero that provided images to track underground fires that burned for weeks at the site.

It's worth remembering that Google Earth didn't exist back then. The ancient science of cartography has been reborn with the technology of the last decade. Let's hope it's not called on again to map destruction.

See more at the MPR News Cut blog

Via Peter Aldhous


  1. In 2002 I was a remote sensing conference held by JPL in Pasadena. It was the first time the people who had flown the thermal and hyperspectral sensors over the WTC ruins publicly told the story of being the only plane in the sky, and what it was like to be ground truthing down below.

    It was easily the most interesting talk that day.

  2. Google Earth may not have existed, but Earthviewer3D by Keyhole, Inc did. (which was later purchased by Google to create Google Earth).

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