New historical research platform: Google Earth Engine

Google has done it again. They’ve found another way to use technology to improve lives. With the help of Imazon, a non-profit research institution that promotes sustainable development in the Amazon through research, Google has developed Google Earth Engine.

Google Earth Engine is a platform that displays environmental data and analysis. The platform uses multiple satellites to gather data dating back over 40 years with the purpose of aiding in environmental and health issues. The project began when Imazon decided to create a monitoring tool that would help depict Amazon deforestation. Google learned of the Imazon’s project and a bigger picture began to come into focus: Google’s leaders envisioned a wider use for this type of data collection and analysis.  Some of the data, that is now available on Google Earth Engine, shows the growth of Las Vegas, the expansion of Wyoming coal mines, and the retreat of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. The data that is currently being collected and analyzed will help detect deforestation, classify land cover, estimate forest biomass and carbon, and map the world’s road less areas.

According to a recent article published in the New York Times, future Google Earth Engine projects include mapping the location of fishing vessels, tracing the spread of malaria, showing sea-ice melt, and depicting fires.  Every project has a team of well-trained scientists, who are helping to build various models and interpret data. According to Rebecca Moore, the lead computer scientist of Google Earth Engine, they were able to gather 700,000 satellite images and process the data on 10,000 computers in parallel in a couple of  days, “whereas on a single computer it would have taken more than 15 years.” What a feat!

The technological development in data collection and analysis provided by Google Earth Engine will hopefully change the game for scientists and policy makers alike. With more geospatial data and scientific minds to interpret it in a clear way, perhaps we can improve the quality and speed of environmental and land use decisions.

For more Information, check out” target=”_blank”>Google Earth Engine.

Amanda Padilla
GIS Analyst

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