Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Explore the Depth of the Oceans on Google Earth

From New York Times, February 3, 2009
Until now the existing features on Google Earth were mountains, valleys, cities, plains, ice sheets — were built through programming from an elevation of zero up. “We had this arbitrary distinction that if it was below sea level it didn’t count,” recalled John Hanke, the Internet entrepreneur who co-created the progenitor of Google Earth, called Keyhole, and moved to Google when the company bought his company in 2004.

Through new programming and data collection simulated oceans were created as a significant of several upgrade to Google Earthy. Historical Imagery, another feature provides the user with the ability to scroll back through decades of satellite images and watch the spread of suburbia or erosion of coasts. Touring is a feature where you can create narrated, illustrated tours, on land or above and below the sea surface, describing and showing things like a hike or scuba excursion, or even a research cruise on a deep-diving submarine.

Archives of information, called “layers” accessible by 20 buttons, a visitor can read logs of oceanographic expeditions, see old film clips from the heyday of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and check daily Navy maps of sea temperatures. The replicated seas have detailed topography reflecting what is known about the abyss and continental shelves — and rougher areas where little is known. Some of these features convincingly visualize the increasing interplay of humans and the environment, for better and worse, as populations grow and spread.

“It’s a way of raising awareness from thousands to billions overnight,” said Richard W. Spinrad, the N.O.A.A. assistant administrator for research, who served on an advisory panel.

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