Google Earth’s Explorations:
In 2005 Google launched Google Earth, a feature that allows users to simply designate what part of the Earth they want to view closely. Since then, users have shared new information that they have discovered via the popular Google Earth Blog.
Google Earth is being used to monitor deforestation around the world, with a variety of outcomes. In Sumatra, aerial satellite imagery has revealed devastating habitat loss for the Indonesian Tiger, and other animals. In the Amazon, Google Earth observation of deforestation led to the discovery of ancient geoglyphs in Peru, that were previously unnoticed due to their overwhelmingly large scope. According to TreeHugger, “One of the factors that contributed to so many geoglyphs being undetected prior to the aid of satellites is their enormous size. According to leading geoglyph scientist Alceu Ranzi, his latest discoveries — five sets of geometric shapes, with circles, squares and lines — can measure more than a mile from one extreme to another.”
A more recent advantage of Google Earth imagery has been the simulation of the scattered debris following the Joplin tornado disaster. Using satellite imagery, the National Climatic Data Center has been able to put together a model measuring the intensity of the particles. NOAA’s Steven Ansari explains, “The Radar site conducts conical sweeps at increasing elevations off the ground and measures the ‘reflectivity’ of particles in the atmosphere. Large rain drops, hail, and in this case debris are represented as high reflectivity values and it is ‘reflectivity’ which we are most accustomed to seeing on television and internet weather maps. Each sweep is represented as a COLLADA model with the semi-transparent Reflectivity image draped on the model. In addition, several isosurfaces are created from the 3D reflectivity volume and represented as polygons in the KML [a file format used for geographic data]. A tour is also included in the KMZ [keyhole markup file].” To view the simulation, click this KMZ file.
Even more interestingly, Google Earth’s satellite imaging has been used to unearth seventeen Egyptian tombs that are completely buried in ancient Tanis. According to the BBC, the University of Alabama’s US Egyptologist Dr. Sarah Parcak and her team use remote sensing satellites that are situated 700 km above Earth to capture imagery that has so far detected 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements underground. These infrared satellite images are able to locate the tombs with an accuracy of one meter. Due to the tombs primary makeup of mud brick, they are distinct from their surrounding areas and can therefore be detected by the infrared imagery. Dr. Parcak and her team have traveled to Egypt where they have made test excavations at these detected sites.
In association with Google Ocean, Sony has released a game called Project Shiphunt’s Oceans of Treasure that enables users to navigate oceans in search for abandoned ships. The game looks extremely realistic since it uses actual ocean imaging and is in fact quite challenging. Each week, users have the opportunity to compete for real-life prizes if they are able to search through the oceans in search of an abandoned ship. This technology is made possible through Sony VIAO Laptops and 2nd Gen Intel Core™ processors. To play click here: Shiphunt.
Note: The original Project Shiphunt (the predecessor to Oceans of Treasure) was released aimed at a group of Michigan high school students. Working closely with NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the students will be searching for an abandoned ship in the Michigan Lakes area where many ships were while transporting their cargo.