Sunday 13 March 2011

Down to Earth.

Google Earth is without doubt Google’s best products, forget finding out what’s my local take away, forget rapid transit around a city – I want to look at my house in amazing resolution and wander around the Californian Desert looking for faults!

Possibly the most powerful thing about the program is its ability to easily incorporate third-party data onto the projection of earth, most of this information is free, and files are fast to download. Many a fieldtrip I have been on with the University has utilised the software to provide a image to demonstrate the presence of a fault or particular bed - I even used Google earth to find faults in my dissertation mapping area that had eluded me in the field (to be fair, they were cutting schist). Information extra to the program is downloaded to the user by a small (since the data is then streamed from the web) file termed a ‘kml’.

The BGS have released all of the UK’s geology (At a fair resolution) as a kml file, and although it makes the program run bit slowly (best to zoom in, find an area then turn it on). It’s a great resource, and given that in a previous post I highlighted the importance of maps in interesting people to the geosciences the availability of free, exciting maps presented in a naturally pleasant manner on a simple to use – but powerful program is brilliant.

Image of the Geology of Central UK - each bed can be clicked on for further data. Resolution improves when zoomed in. A brilliant free resource for public communication of Geology. 
The USGS, however are not left behind; they have released an earthquake locator kml file; which also gives the locations and movement of worldwide tectonic plates. Alongside, mainly Californian resources into tectonics. - With supporting material provided. Recent events in the far east, have highlighted the importance of an understanding of tectonics and downloading that particular kml file really highlights the incredible activity that has resulted in such devastation to a sizeable area of Japan.

View of Japan and the Aleutian Arc from the USGS highlighting the activity in Japan over the past few days 
Given that the program is provided by Google you would expect easy integration with resources online; Websites (or lecturers) can provide a .kml file for download to show a certain feature (glacier, mountain, fault, volcano etc...). While the program itself features further third party features, such as images of natural wonder (and animal migrating) or a factor of human life being put under threat (such as global warming). What is missing though, considering that seeing something in the field is a lot better than in a textbook, is geological field localities; people could virtually visit Hutton’s unconformity to learn about geological time, or explore the Barrovian district of Scotland to learn about metamorphism. These resources may be specialised but similar ones exist for biosciences and conservation; why not geology? The perfect science for Google Earth.  

Brief Footnote:
Great post about a nice little online game to play


  1. Google Earth has Panorama which alows pictures to be posted at the proper location. (See parts of the US Grand Canyon for example. So your suggestion could be implemented by putting pictures of the various geologic ideas if indeed they don't already exist.

  2. Hi Lyle, thanks for your comment.

    I hadn't really considered the Panorama aspect within Google Earth. I was more thinking of an interactive flash or likewise minisite that could communicate the processes..... although that's only an idea as I haven't a clue how to implement it!