Saturday, February 11, 2012

Google Earth

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I love Google Earth and think that it has to be the single most amazing information tool ever. No matter what the news or event is, one of my first stops is often Google Earth. I've learned more about the details of different events by going there than just about anywhere. Often I learn more in Google Earth than from any other source. If you don't know quite what I'm talking about, I'll list a few examples...

1. The War in Iraq and the missing Iraqi Air Force led me to use Google Earth to discover on my own that Saddam didn't fly his jets out to Syria or Jordan. Nope. They were dragged out into the desert away from their airfields. And they sit there to this day still... those that you can find.  Good hunting!

2. The bombing of the Beirut International Airport by the Israelis in summer 2006 fascinated me, and months later updated imagery showed (and still does) just where the bombs hit, and what it takes to disable an airport.

3. The 2007 San Diego wildfires became an amazing exhibition of how much, and how quickly a vast amount of information could be distributed via Google Earth. The leading edge of the fire was constantly updated. Property damage was documented and updated several times per day. Overlay maps showed smoke effect areas. And all the information on evacuation areas, shelters, and the like were included. As the event went on the information seemed to become more and more complete.

4. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan had updated imagery of inundation areas within days... far more quickly than normal. Extremely detailed models of the Fukushima Nuclear plant came online almost immediately. It was almost like viewing the event in real time.  And an unbelievable host of various KML file links came online to add to the data flow.  The resolution of the latest photos of the affected areas is all extremely high too... so you can really zoom in to see what the impact was and how far inland the waters came.  When you see it in Google Earth you get an entirely different experience.

5. The news of the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 included an intellegence photo of the compound where the fugitive was hiding.  Even though the most current imagery on Google Earth at the time was several years old it was still good enough for me to locate the compound myself several days before it was widely shown on television newscasts.  Within a week a fully detailed 3D model of the compound showed up in the 3D layer of Google Earth.  And updated imagery was avaliable shortly after. If you're interested look northeast of Abbottabad.  You'll find it too!  :)

6.  The rebuilding of Ground Zero in New York City on Google Earth is like being there.  About once a month the 3D models are updated showing the progress of construction.  It's been a joy to watch this over the last couple of years.  If you haven't gone there yet, go right away!

And I could go on and on and list many more examples. One feature I have on my installation of Google Earth is USGS Real Time Earthquakes. Since I live on the Big Island of Hawaii it's not uncommon to feel the ground move once in a while... and sometimes quite violently like the morning of Oct 15, 2006.  Within minutes of feeling something a quick check on Google Earth tells me if it's really been an earthquake or just my imagination. 

As an engineer I use Google Earth in my work to overlay maps and drawings and make exhibits for presentations. I gather information with GPS equipment that can export data for immediate display in Google Earth. I have my own niche in the Google Earth 3D library where many of my models of Big Island airport buildings have been accepted and automatically display when users enable the 3D Buildings layer in the program.  More are in the works for future publication too as time permits.

All this pretty much brings me to why I wrote all of this up tonite. The Costa Concordia cruise ship accident off the coast of Italy recently has become the source of one of the most incredible things I've seen on Google Earth yet. The video you see below is a combination of extremely detailed modelling along with near forensic timeline analysis of exactly what happened. You just have to see it to believe it:

First of all, congratulations to Peter Olsen, the author of the model and video. It's as well done as anything I've ever seen on GE, and will be best viewed full screen at the highest resolution. But more importantly, my sympathy goes out to all who lost friends or loved ones in this horrific example of human error, poor judgement, and outright recklessness. This simply didn't have to happen.


1 comment:

  1. Nice post Dave. I'm not that familiar with google earth, but it is a great tool.