Google Earth Engine
Google Earth Engine is a cloud computing platform for processing satellite imagery and other Earth observation data. It provides access to a large warehouse of satellite imagery and the computational power needed to analyze those images. The platform was developed by Google, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, NASA, the United States Geological Survey and TIME.
The Landsat program started doing continuous earth observation right after its development in July 1972, making it the longest and most complete running record of the landscape of the planet. These satellites pass over the same places on the Earth every sixteen days, moving from pole to pole, revealing dynamic changes of the Earth over time. These key changes, like the progression of agriculture, natural resources,and climate can be now viewed on Google Earth Engine. Google Earth Engine has become a platform that makes Landsat data easily accessible to researchers.
The Google Earth Engine provides a data catalog along with computers for analysis; this creates an environment where scientists can collaboratively share data, algorithms, and visualizations using URLS’s. Partnering with the United States Geological Survey, Google Earth Engine is using these 40 years of satellite images to provide images of changes in the Earth’s surface, to be used by corporations, scientists, governments and the people at large. To drive this engine, Google went through 909 terabytes of data, images dating from 1984 to present day, and found the clearest images to improve research quality. Initial applications of the engine have included mapping the forests of Mexico, identifying water in the Congo basin, and detecting deforestation in the Amazon. Another application is the Timelapse project. Working in association with TIME, Google has created a global time-lapse image which allows users to view landscape changes in any location on Earth.
Using the Google Earth Engine to track global forest loss or gain, The University of Maryland was able to show an overall forest loss around most of the world. The Google Earth Engine is bringing the ability to accurately track deforestation at a regional and global level to groups such as REDD and even tropical nations. Through the data, storage and computing muscle supplied by Google, one can visualize forest change in a fraction of a second over the web.
The Carnegie Institute for Science’s CLASlite system and Imazon’s Sisteme de Alerta de Deforesation (SAD) are two institutions that have developed technologies towards making Google Earth Engine a reality. Carnegie Institute for Science’s CLASlite system, led by Greg Asner uses satellite imagery and laser deployed from airplanes to build high-resolution, 3-D maps of forests that measure logging and any environmental disturbance related to the forest. SAD led by Carlos Souza uses satellite imagery to detect and report deforestation.
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