Google has made public a new online technology that will allow scientists to monitor and quantify changes to the environment, using 25 years worth of satellite data collected by LANDSAT, the longest satellite continuously orbiting around Earth.
The internet giant has labeled the new product Google Earth Engine. Presented during the International Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, it’s potential applications include tracking deforestation and mapping land trends. It comes with some of Google’s signature mind bending quirks, including tools that remove clouds and haze from satellite images among others.
Researchers are using the tool to produce maps illustrating forest canopy damage in the Amazon, and persistent surface water in Central Africa. Google demonstrated the capabilities of the new technology to attendees at the Climate Change Conference by creating the most comprehensive scale map of Mexico’s forest and water resources ever made. Produced in collaboration with Mexico’s National Forestry Commission, the map used 15,000 hours worth of computation, and 53,000 LANDSAT scenes; this project alone would have taken three years to accomplish using one computer, according to Google officials, the Google Earth Engine did it in one day.
“No one has ever been able to analyze that entire data set for Mexico, or even come close,” said Rebecca Moore, the project’s engineering manager.
The map will be used by Mexico to make decisions about land use.