Google’s ‘Dynamic World’ Provides a Real-Time Sense of Humanity’s Destruction of the Earth

Satellite images show the destruction and transition to scrubland in California’s El Dorado County after the Caldor Fire burned 221,775 acres of land in 2021.
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I can remember when Google Earth was just a tool for me and friends to zoom in on our old streets and houses† I remember squinting at the screen to see if the satellites managed to spot my stubby little head sticking out of the corner of the cul-de-sac where I lived.

Now with a new release from the tech giant showing changes in the country over time, I can now witness over-development across the country I once called home. If my hometown is flooded in a few years’ time due to: sea ​​level rise and coastal erosionI will be able to use Google’s systems to see how and when things started to go wrong.

google announced Thursday is the new Dynamic world app—which uses the Google Earth engine—actively displays how the Earth’s surface changes as a result of: climate change and land development† The cards can represent nine different types of land cover, such as water, trees, scrub or buildings. Using the map, users can view changes in tree growth, flooded areas and human development in “near real time”. Each pixel in the dataset represents approximately 1,100 square feet, with AI using it to conclude how likely it is that a different type of ground cover will be available in that space.

The app was developed together with the World Resources Institutea not-for-profit research group, to “provide an unprecedented level of detail about what is on land and how it is used – whether it be forests in the Amazon, agriculture in Asia, urban development in Europe, or seasonal water resources in North America .”

Craig Hanson, an executive at WRI, wrote in Google’s post, “The global land squeeze is pushing us to find smarter, more efficient and more sustainable ways to use land.”

The site allows users to compare areas side-by-side from different dates, although the data only goes back to June 2015. The system advertises it produces 5,000 images every day, with the most up to date pictures as recent as two days ago.

Alongside the company’s forest fire tracking ability, Google is also promoting a new setting released Thursday allowing users to monitor air quality via Google Maps. Google’s air quality layer incorporates information from the US Environmental Protection Agency that can be seen AirNow.govalongside data from PurpleAir, a private air quality monitoring company.

Gizmodo has previously reported on the the company’s in-browser app which allows users to track air quality data with a Google search, but we found the system to be rather spotty and inconsistent depending on the area you searched for. We also found that air quality data in bags with known breathability and pollution issues was not available with Google’s in-browser search, due to a lack of government or private data.

The new map layer, accessible by clicking the layer button in the app, is much more user-friendly than the browser version. The new app provides data points from multiple spots within an area, most of which come from PurpleAir’s home systems. Still, there is a problem with a lack of data for localized air quality data outside major urban centers.

A Google spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company would add US smoke data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to its air quality map. They said data should come to the air quality map layer “in the coming months.”

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