Canadian Consulting Engineer

New tool gives larger perspective of environmental changes

Google Earth, the 3D virtual world browser, has partnered with the United Nations Environment Agency to make it pos...

September 27, 2006   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Google Earth, the 3D virtual world browser, has partnered with the United Nations Environment Agency to make it possible to zoom in on environmental hotspots around the world. Someone using the Google browser can now zoom into sites on earth and then reference these to images from ” UNEP: Atlas of our Changing Environment.” The atlas shows before and after Landsat images of various environmental hotspots, among which it includes the oilsands developments of Alberta.
Other sites identified in the UNEP atlas are glaciers and melting ice in polar and mountain areas, the explosive growth of cities such as Las Vegas, forest loss in the Amazon, forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa and the decline of the Aral Sea in Central Asia and Lake Chad in Africa.
Google Earth has over 100 million users worldwide.
Google Earth enables users to put each image from the atlas into a detailed geographical context. At Lake Kivu, Uganda, for example, an active volcano threatens to release a lethal cloud of carbon dioxide from the lake. The user can zoom into the city of Goma, caught between the volcano and the lake, and view the high resolution images showing its houses, roads and parks.
Lake Chad, a great shallow lake in West Africa which was once the sixth largest in the world, shrunk to a wetland one tenth its original size between 1963 and 2001. The user can follow the rivers that feed it to their sources, which no longer provide enough water to maintain the lake. Google Earth shows the countries and cities affected by the lake’s decline and offers the ability to search the internet for additional information about Lake Chad.
The printed “One Planet, Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment” was produced in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States Geological Survey and the University of Maryland, and launched in 2005.


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