Google Earth Engine, How Satellite Imagery Can Help Protect the Environment LifeGate

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Google Earth Engine is a still little known tool, which can be exploited by associations to intervene in the best possible way in defense of nature.

I artificial satellites orbiting far from Earth could help save it. Humanitarian and environmental organizations around the world are exploiting images taken from above from a Google tool to study troubled areas and analyze new targets. Is called Google Earth Engine: a still little-known program that, thanks to a wide range of satellite imagery and open source data, makes it relatively easy for experts to design their own interactive maps.

This allows bindings to understand which are the places that need an intervention, with no need to be on site. In addition, the company that owns the famous search engine has provided a team that manages huge sets of data to pro bono help groups that are involved in the fight against climate change and support for communities in need.

What is Google Earth Engine

Technically, Google Earth Engine is one cloud computing platform created in 2001 for the processing of satellite images and other geospatial and observation data. It provides access to a large database of images and has the computing power necessary to analyze such images: thanks to these innovations, the software allows observation of changes in agriculture, natural resources and the climate of specific locations, using geospatial data from the Landsat satellite program.

View of the Earth from space © Alexander Gerst / ESA via Getty Images

I 20,000 image files added every day to the Earth Engine team’s collection are more than just static photos. The satellites collect detailed information on the composition of the soil more than 30 centimeters deep and on the amount of water vapor rising from agricultural land. By studying the changes that have occurred in the same places over a given period of time, associations can decide where to intervene and to remedy critical situations affecting the climate and local populations. Google staff then help customers analyze relevant information and use it in the field.

Some concrete examples: from Senegal to Peru

In its developer section, Google explains how to use Earth Engine and describes some success stories. For example, focusing on the satellite photos they relate to Ugandait is possible to examine the state of the local soil and predict when the temperature will be too high for i pastures and the people who live in the areas observed. In fact, the effects of climate change have significantly changed the flow of seasons in the African state. With more or less long rains and more intense droughts, especially in eastern and north-eastern Uganda.

Other recent episodes concern nations in different parts of the world. Thanks to a radio link with an NGO partner of Google Earth Engine, the nomads of Senegal learn where to get a drink for their cows; dots on interactive maps inform indigenous Peruvians on the ongoing deforestation activities. In Africa, the Cloud to Street association maps drought zones in areas at risk from climate change.

A useful tool also for monitoring deforestation

In recent years, Cloud to Street has used Google Earth Engine to improve its searches and predict the intensity, duration and impact of floods in the Republic of Congo. Affiliated users can thus view a map of the area that plots the path of the rising water, receive messages in real time on blocked roads and help the local community avoid other imminent dangers.

Read also

For decades, satellites launched by space agencies in the United States and Europe have collected a vast archive of data on Earth and its atmosphere, but it was data that was virtually impossible for the public to examine. Taking advantage of the Google tool, these information can now be distributed digitally and become more accessible: “It’s a significant level of transparency that wasn’t available before,” commented Mikaela Weisse, spokesperson for Global Forest Watchan online organization that monitors the deforestation in the world. Thanks to satellite photos taken thousands of kilometers away, today the protection of the environment can be done faster and more constructively.

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