Search engine giant, Google, has been making news again in December 2010. First, it unveiled Google eBooks and then, a week later at the COP16 talks in Cancun, the company announced Google Earth Engine. The new, free online technology tracks environmental changes worldwide by comparing sattellite images taken over the past 25 years from the LANDSAT satellite.
Among other things, you will be able to use applications that measure deforestation of rain forests, monitor diminishing water resources and track land use trends. To demonstrate the potential of Google Earth Engine, the most comprehensive scale map of Mexico’s forest and water resources to date was unveiled at COP16. The map itself took 15,000 hours of computation (the equivalent of three years with a single computer), but was completed in less than one day on the Google Earth Engine which processed over 50,000 LANDSAT images on 1,000 computers running in parallel.
Google Earth Engine was developed by Google.org, the philanthropic division of the company. Google hopes to evidence environmental changes that are occurring worldwide so that appropriate governmental and public responses can be formulated. Google joined forces with climate scientists in developing its online tool, including Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carlos Souza of Imazon and Matt Hansen of the Geographic Information Science Center at South Dakota State University.
Google and others have high hopes that the Google Earth Engine will encourage the slowing of deforestation – one of the leading causes of global climate change. To help developing countries, Google is offering 20 million CPU hours free of charge.
Take a peek at a gallery of Google Earth Engine’s images here.