Mikhail (Misha) Nikolaevich Zhizhin
Payne Institute Research Associate

Zhizhin Mikhail Nikolaevich, M.Sci. degree in game theory in 1984 from Mathematical Department of the Moscow State University, Ph.D. in computational seismology and pattern recognition in 1992 from the Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 1989 -1997, while working at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and later as an invited professor in Strasbourg and Paris Universities in France, Dr. Zhizhin developed a new method for detection and pattern recognition of seismic signals from earthquakes and volcanoes. The scientific software package implementing the new algorithm was called Syntactic Pattern Recognition Scheme (SPARS). It was used by several PhD students in France and Russia to study strong motion records from catastrophic earthquakes, to relocate microearthquakes in early fracking research, and to trace the rise of lava inside volcanoes prior to eruption. This research has facilitated the international exchange of seismic and tectonic data for geodynamic studies and rapid earthquake alerts.

While working as a visiting scientist at the National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, in 1998-2005 Dr. Zhizhin developed a global network of the synchronous database and web servers with the Big Data assets in space physics. The project was named Space Physics Interactive Data Resource (SPIDR). The SPIDR database network approach did help to deliver large volumes of scientific data in interactive time to users all over the world, to secure the precious scientific datasets from hardware failures, and to facilitate the international exchange of environmental records in geomagnetism, cosmic rays, heliospheric and ionospheric studies, solar wind, space weather, and more. The mirroring of SPIDR databases happens in real time, because the servers have exchanged directly the observatory data records.

SPIDR web pages with interactive data plots and maps of geophysical observatories have defined a state of the art in the Internet for Earth Sciences. SPIDR database and web servers were simultaneously installed and have mirrored space weather data in Boulder (USA), Moscow (Russia), Paris (France), Kyoto (Japan), Hyderabad (India), Beijing (China), and Kiev (Ukraine). International data traffic between the SPIDR servers was used as a demonstration project by the global 10 Gbit scientific network ring GLORIAD. In 2010, the SPIDR developers have received the NASA Earth Science Data Systems Software Reuse Working Group Peer-Recognition Software Reuse Award. In the same year, SPIDR developer team has received the National Geophysical Data Center NOAA Customer Service Award.

Dr. Mikhail Zhizhin was a Chief Software Architect for the Environmental Scenario Generator (ESG), developed at the National Geophysical Center, NOAA, under the contract with the DoD in 1999-2005. The ESG is a network software system designed to allow a user to interact with very big archives of environmental data for the purpose of scenario extraction, data analysis and integration with existing models that require environmental input. The ESG uses fuzzy-logic based search tools to allow a user to look for specific environmental scenarios in vast archives by specifying the search in human natural language.

The ESG approach was used to build a global weather archive jointly by the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge, UK, and the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow. To support this big climatology data project named Environmental Scenario Search Engine (ESSE) in 2008, a new Microsoft Research Institute was established at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia.

Scientific contribution of Dr. Zhizhin to the field of remote sensing includes an original method of subpixel detection and characterization of infrared combustion sources using the VIIRS multispectral radiometer from the modern US satellite Suomi NPP. The new method is called “Nightfire” and it can detect gas flares, fires and industrial combustion sources in the temperature range from 400K to 2500K and the area less than 1 sq. m. More than 10,000 detections are reported by the Nightfire on every night.

Analysis of the time history of gas flares observed from satellites is the only instrumental way to estimate the global volumes of flaring and by this to assess environmental impact from oil exploration in CO2 and greenhouse gas emission. Dr. Zhizhin has developed a new calibration scale for such assessment. Scientific paper on the assessment of gas flaring from satellite data, where Dr. Zhizhin is a co-author, has received a best paper award from the Energies journal in 2013. The calibration scale will serve as a scientific background for the World Bank initiative to end routine gas flaring to 2030, which was announced by the President of the World Bank on April 17, 2015.

In 2014, Dr. Zhizhin developed a new method of fishing boat detection in the nighttime images from the Suomi NPP satellite. The method is capable to detect small-scale boats in the Southern seas, which use electric light to attract fish and squid at night. Most of the small-scale fishing boats do not report their GPS locations. Reliable detection of their lights from satellite is the only way to real-time monitoring of the marine protected areas and no-take zones.