Dec 242015

NORAD is Tracking Santa!!!


Why does NORAD track Santa?

Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, NORAD tracks airplanes, missiles, space launches and anything else that flies in or around the North American continent, while also completing some other very important missions. While the tradition of tracking Santa began purely by accident, NORAD continues to track Santa. We’re the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it. And, we love it! NORAD is honored to be Santa’s official tracker!

The Tradition Lives On …

For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight.

The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.

Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world. In addition, we now track Santa using the internet. Millions of people who want to know Santa’s whereabouts now visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website.

Finally, media from all over the world rely on NORAD as a trusted source to provide updates on Santa’s journey.

In Memory of Retired Colonel Harry Shoup, NORAD’s First Santa Tracker
September 29, 1917 – March 14, 2009


It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.


These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.

Read more at — just click on the NORAD HQ link …

Happy Holidays to all from your ASPRS Rocky Mountain Region!  

Sep 232015

The latest from NASA’s Earth Observatory (22 September 2015)

The Shrinking Aral Sea: Updated for 2015
Over the past 50 years the Aral Sea has been devastated by massive irrigation projects. These images show the decline over the past decade and perhaps even small signs of recovery in 2015.


Latest Images:

* Wildfire Scars California Towns

* Plume from Mount Meru, Tanzania

* Great Exuma Island, Bahamas

* Snow in the Andes

* The Split Personality of SoCal Fires

* The West Dries Up

* Finding Hidden Shoals on the North Slope

* Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Annual Low


Recent Blog Posts:

Earth Matters
* September Puzzler

Notes from the Field
* 18 Days on the Ice


NASA’s Earth Observatory
Where every day is Earth day.

To subscribe, e-mail:

Aug 072015

I recently backed a cool Kickstarter project called Mapwheel, and thought that fellow GIS / mapping people on this list might be interested in it too.

They let you design a custom “toposcope” or map wheel showing the direction and distance of places of interest from the location where you live (or any other location you choose). They then ship you a nicely finished disk made of metal or wood with your design printed on it.

I blogged about it here:

The direct Kickstarter link is here:

I have no affiliation with them, I just think it’s a cool idea and I hope they get their Kickstarter funded!
(Posted 8/4/15 on GIS Colorado Listserve)

Jul 242015

GIS in the Rockies Pre-Conference Workshop:
UAS and GIS Ground School plus Hands-On UAV Flying and Data Collection

Date: September 21-22, 2015
Time: September 21: 10:00AM-1:00PM,
September 22: 9:00AM-2:00PM
Location: Offsite.
11001 West 120th Ave
Suite 400
Broomfield, CO, 80021

Primary Instructor: Joe Falconer, CEO, Aerial Data Systems
Primary Instructor E-mail:
Co-Instructor: Steve Hick, GIS Director, University of Denver
Co-Instructor E-mail:

Ground school and hands-on UAV flying and data collection. UAS has been prolific in the news and is extremely relevant to the GIS professional. Big industry is lining up to do business in this market space, to name a few: Esri, Leica, Trimble, USGS, USDA, BLM, CU, DU more. To be ready for the future and to take advantage of these technological breakthroughs, it is paramount that we all operate legally, safely and respect the national airspace system (NAS).

Some of the Topics Covered:   Continue reading »

Jun 192015

I found this link in my Facebook feed. I thought there might be some fellow wine enthusiasts who would enjoy this particular webmap.  Maybe it might help solidify some long weekend plans …     😉

Carolyn Fritz
GIS Coordinator
O 303.866.3441 x3212 | F 303.866.4474
1313 Sherman St., Room 718, Denver, CO 80203 | |

(posted to GISCO list 5/18/2015)

Apr 012015

The latest from NASA’s Earth Observatory (31 March 2015)

Tournament Earth 2015: The Finals

The championship round of the 2015 tournament has arrived! Which image deserves the crown? The colorful faults in Xinjiang or lightning over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait? Vote for your favorite by Friday at 4 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. UTC) and then check back next Monday when we reveal the winner.

New Features:

* Big Data Helps Scientists Dig Deeper

Empowered by free access to the Landsat data archive, earth scientists are using new computing tools to ask questions that were impossible to answer a decade ago. From week-to-week fluctuations in forests to year-to-year changes in land cover, researchers can now examine our planet in much greater detail.

Mar 142015

Tournament: Earth : 2015

They face off on the frozen tundra and in the searing deserts. They meet high in the stratosphere and in the depths of the ocean. They clash on the remotest of islands and in the brightly-lit urban centers. They are the best and brightest of Earth’s stars, and they meet again in friendly international competition.

Thirty-two of the best Earth Observatory images will meet in Tournament Earth 3.0, but only one can be the winner. From March 2 through April 6, you can vote for your favorite images from the past year, whittling the total from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 2 in a month-long tournament of remote sensing madness. The competition will be stiff in the four brackets — Data, Art, Event, and Photograph — so it is up to you to separate the winners from the losers. Come back each week to vote in each new round.

After destroying the competition in our first two Tournament Earth competitions, the Canary Islands have retired. Help us pick the new Tournament Earth champion.

Download the Matchups for printing (PDF)

(Mar. 11)

Mar 142015

Finally! If you are planning on using unmanned aircraft for your GIS data capture, you now have options!

There are two ways you may fly unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes, legally and within the National Airspace System (NAS).

  1. Obtain a waiver from the FAA. We can help; for more information (
  2. In about 12-18 months you will be able to take an Airmen Knowledge Test (AKT) to get certified. This was published within the recent NPRM. To ensure this goes the right way for the GIS community take the time to comment. For more information (

The FAA recently released their UAS proposed rules. Personally I was pleasantly surprised and believe that they will, for the most part, work well for the GIS community. To find out more and comment on the new proposed rules, visit (

It has been a few weeks since the outcome of HB115 and SB059 in Colorado. Fortunately the bill, SB059, was struck and did not make it to the senate floor. HB1115 was written in a technological agnostic way so as not to affect GIS work using UAS.  So make a mark in the ‘W’ column for GIS.
Things are shaping up for GIS and UAS!

Joe Falconer MBA, CFI, CFII, MEI
CEO, Adjunct Professor, University of Denver
UAS for GIS Professionals
o 720.330.8320
c 720.626.5576
f 720.468.4137

(Mar. 10)

Feb 062015

TED Talk – how GPS satellites keep exact time …

Interesting and potentially useful resource for those of you in spatial educational endeavours …


Aside – the throw away line about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? If you were not aware, HERE is a lovely example of how what is seen by most as ‘esoteric science’ is actually used in a pragmatic way by pretty much all of us every day with our GPSes in survey equipment, smart phones, etc.  — Continue reading »