Being a GIS geek, when reading the New York Times and The Economist on my iPad, current events in the Middle East always get me to thinking about how the geography all fits together. During the last few weeks and especially the last few days, tensions with Iran are at an all time high. Out of curiosity, I decided to further investigate using the toys at work, primarily ArcGIS 10 for Desktop, specifically the Multiple Ring Buffer geoprocessing tool.
To perform this analysis, first I need to establish what I am interested in, then find the data, prepare the data, analyze the data and finally output the results. The first part is easy, I know what I want to investigate. What areas are affected by the capabilities of Iran's missile program?
To ascertain this requires knowing what ballistic missiles Iran possesses and what their capabilities are. This requires flexing my Google-fu. It does not take long to locate a relevant Congressional report, a report from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and MissileThreat.com. Together, these contain information of what Iran's ballistic missile capabilities are. The only other needed data is an outline of Iran. This is easy to locate by grabbing a world country data set off ArcGIS.com.
After assembling the data together, it is time to ensure my analysis environment is set up. ArcGIS requires data to be projected to perform spatial analysis. Projecting data distorts data. Depending on the projection, it typically will preserve one aspect of shape, area, distance or direction at the expense of the other three. In this case, I needed to preserve distance, so in the properties of my data frame, I set the spatial reference to the Equidistant Conic projection available in ArcGIS 10 for Desktop.
With my data procured and the analysis environment set up, it is time to analyze. The capabilities' of the ballistic missiles listed on these sites are used as the input into the Multiple Ring Buffer tool. Entering the ranges of all the ballistic missiles into this tool yields the output show in this map layout.
Twenty minutes is all it took to create an answer to the question, what areas are affected by Iran's ballistic missile capabilities. All it takes is a quick internet search followed by using a geoprocessing tool with consideration given to spatial reference. The result is interesting and quite sobering. It makes it very obvious why Israel is quite vocal in their disapproval of Iran's suspected arms programs.