iEarth From Google, Nasa... Snow Crash?

iEarth is Google's answer to NASA's problem regarding weather data. Every day, NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) transmits terabytes of data back to ground stations. A terabyte is 1024 gigabytes, or about one trillion bytes, of information.

NASA's EOS consists of a dozen satellites, plus weather balloons and assorted ground-based sensors. Air temperature, water-vapor density, concentrations of selected aerosols across wide swaths of the plate pour in. How can you possibly organize this much information?


(Google Earth - from space)

Enter Google, whose Google Earth application already provides easy access to worldwide maps. iEarth is an application that superimposes this data on top of 3D maps provided by Google Earth.

Picking a spot on the Earth will prompt the application to look through EOS and convert that data into a file viewable from Google Earth.

"This is the first time we've been able to do multi-instrument atmospheric science," says Brian Wilson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who demonstrated a prototype of iEarth at this week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "You can pick a specific spot on the planet and, starting with the surface, move up in altitude through the troposphere and stratosphere," he says.
(NASA climate data)

In Neal Stephenson's excellent 1992 novel Snow Crash, Hiro Protagonist is given an amazing service - ordinarily available only to the wealthy - for free.

There is something new: A globe about the size of a grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm's length in front of his eyes. Hiro has heard about this but never seen it. It is a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns - all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff.

Hiro has been thinking that in a few years, if he does really well in the intel biz, maybe he will make enough money to subscribe to Earth and get this thing in his office. Now it is suddenly here, free of charge...
(Read more about CIC Virtual Earth)

Ordinary mortals (as opposed to just NASA staff) will be able to use Google and NASA's iEarth application by next spring.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/20/2006)

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