Maps on steroids: Google Earth at NCAR

Researchers who use Google Earth, the virtual globe, map, and geographical information program, just got a boost from the company, which has granted UCAR/NCAR a number of free Google Earth Pro licenses for use by staff. The licenses are part of Google Earth Outreach, which supports nonprofit organizations on issues affecting local regions or the entire globe.

Anyone can download the freely available Google Earth software that doesn't require a license key. For the additional features of Google Earth Pro, such as video recording, higher resolution printing, and advanced import/export, staff should contact CISL’s Markus Stobbs for a license key.

UCAR/NCAR scientists are using Google Earth in a variety of ways, from animating Antarctic driftsonde tracks to mapping wildfires and reconstructing the ancient Nile delta.

Screenshot image of the globe.
This screenshot shows an example of NARCCAP plots that have been overlaid into Google Earth. To create the image, Josh Thompson (CISL/IMAGe) generated a plot with NCL (NCAR Command Language) and edited it for usability in Google Earth. The result shows the pairing of a regional climate model and global climate model. (Image courtesy Josh Thompson.)

Josh Thompson (CISL/IMAGe) is a student assistant working on visualization and Web support for NARCCAP, a regional climate model project that provides high-resolution climate change scenario data for North America. One of his goals is to integrate the data into Google Earth.

“Using Google Earth, NARCCAP data can be projected in many different ways, which is beneficial to us as well as to our growing user community,” Josh says. “The presentation tools have proven to be very useful for analysis and comparison.”

At the United Nations climate change meetings held in Cancun, Mexico, in December, Google unveiled a database that will help scientists and conservationists track and analyze changes in Earth's environment and hopefully slow deforestation. Called Google Earth Engine, the satellite imagery tool takes advantage of Google's large-scale cloud computing infrastructure to build a powerful database out of thousands of satellite photographs from the past 25 years, many of which have never been analyzed. The database is freely available for public use.

More information about how researchers at UCAR/NCAR are using Google Earth.


UCAR Visual Communications Group

If part of your job is using visuals to illustrate science, there’s a new group that wants to hear from you. The Visual Communications Group was started in autumn 2010 by David Hosansky (Communications).

“We want to continue creating more and better visualizations of our science,” David says. “There are lots of different people around the organization working to this end, so the idea is to get everyone in the same room.”

 The group’s first meeting was in early December. About ten staff from around the organization—mostly in outreach, graphic design, and administration—met to pick each other’s brains, share ideas, and see where their needs overlap. The group plans to meet about every other month. For more info, contact David Hosansky.