Going North #Vizrisk 2019

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

Going North

Project Description:

At Territorial Empathy, we’ve been researching the Central American migration crisis for some time. While our previous research “Unaccompanied Assault” had focused on the plight of migrant children upon entering the United States, we have decided to trace the crisis to its source. From our previous work, we have been able to unravel the popular narrative that the majority of Central American migrants originate from Mexico. In fact, the bulk of the legal and illegal immigration from this region stems from an area known as the Northern Triangle - the central equatorial region that encompasses Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This research project, Going North, investigates some of the conditions in the Northern Triangle region that may be precipitating and contributing to the migratory crisis. By looking at the risk factors that affect the region: drought, flooding, seismic, precipitation and volcanic activity we have begun to understand the life safety and economic exposure threatening the region. Having analyzed the last twenty years of hazard data in the region we have noticed a strong correlation between climate and migration. Due to decreased rainfall, the effects of El Nino, and climate change the suitability of agriculture in the region is in peril. A recent study by the World Food Programme found that half of all Central American deportees from America were previously employed in agriculture before migrating. Going North not only investigates the historic correlations between risk and migration, but also takes on a projection analysis to illustrate the potential impacts on agriculture for decades to come. By incorporating critical research from CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) that found, "changing temperature and rainfall could reduce the Central American coffee-growing area between 38 and 89 percent by the year 2050 and raise the minimum altitude for coffee production from approximately 2,000 feet to 3,300 feet above sea level," into this visualization, we can use coffee production suitability as a case study to understand the future impacts of climate change on one of the most profitable crops in the region. Through Going North, we hope to create a tool that adds to the public debate around immigration to the United States – if food cannot grow in the region and conditions continue to worsen, how will we confront the assuredly increasing exodus northward?

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Lessons Learned: Participating in the #Vizrisk challenge was a very rewarding experience! We learned so much about risk and resiliency data monitoring the different hazards around the world. However, due to our site selection the data that was made available to the challenge participants wasn't available for our project. The Northern Triangle countries suffer from a lack of information availability and infrastructure making it hard to track down reliable data sources. This was a liability and an asset as it forced us to think about alternative ways to communicate issues around climate change and drought. One of these methods was the use of Landsat imagery to track drought in the region. However, this brought an additional set of challenges as these images have large files sizes and take hours to days to download from USGS and NASA servers. We incorporated a new tool into our workflow from ESRI (Web AppBuilder) that allowed for streamlined app building from ArcGIS Pro. Even though there was a slight learning curve, we enjoyed the opportunity to expand our software and tool proficiency.

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