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The nature of water: unveiling the most detailed view of water

The nature of water: unveiling the most detailed view of water on Earth.

Chief Extraterrestrial Observer, Earth Engine.



In 1926, the Mississippi river flooded to its highest level in history, destroying towns and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Since then. Dams and thousands of kilometers of levees have been built to control the mighty Mississippi. 60 years on. Another effect of the historic flood is becoming apparent. As the river has become calmer. It now also carries a lot less of the sediment that created and replenished the delta. Without that, more than 13 thousand square kilometers of the delta — an area 10 times the size of London is slowly slipping into the Gulf of Mexico. Once again the river is threatening to displace thousands and drown the fragile delta wetlands.

The nature of water: unveiling the most detailed view of water

Mississippi delta sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. Blue is water. White is land. Red shows areas of transition. (Source: EC JRC / Google).

The nature of water: unveiling the most detailed view of water

The change of the Mississippi over decades is just one of the hundreds of stories of similarly dramatic change around the globe;. From the draining of the Aral Sea in the Middle East for crops. To the effects of dam construction in China, or the impacts of the multi-year drought on the Western U.S.  Water has been shaping our planet since it was formed, and still plays a direct and crucial role in all of our lives.

  • NoneThe Aral Sea. Kazakhstan
The nature of water
The nature of water
The nature of water

Thanks to a partnership between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and Google. We can now get a view into the past three decades of water on the surface of Earth and see how stories like these have shaped the world over time. In unprecedented detail.   

The nature of water: unveiling the most detailed view of water

This project has been a monumental undertaking. And was made possible by new data processing methods. Running the analysis on thousands of high performance computers at the same time. It took three years to download 1.8 petabytes of data from the USGS/NASA Landsat satellite program and prepare that for analysis. Each pixel in 3 million satellite images. Going all the way back to 1984. Was examined by a computer algorithm developed by the Joint Research Center running on the Google Earth Engine platform. More than 10 million hours of computing time was needed for this, roughly equivalent to a modern 2-core computer running day and night for 600 years.  

Karkheh River in Iran backing up behind a dam from 1984 to 2015 (Source: EC JRC / Google)

The results for the first time allow us to map and measure changes in the water surface over time with a 30-meter accuracy. Month-by-month, over 32 years. Here are some of our findings:  

  • 90 thousand square kilometers of water – the equivalent of half of the lakes in Europe – have vanished altogether. Over 200 thousand square kilometers of new, mostly man-made water bodies came into existence.
  • The continuing drying up of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan accounts for the biggest loss in the world.
  • Iran and Afghanistan lost over a half. Iraq over a third of its water area.
  • Although the area covered by water in the U.S. has overall increased a little, a combination of drought and sustained demand for water have seen six western states, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, account for a third of the loss in U.S. water surface.

Lakes throughout the Tibetan Plateau have expanded in size over the past 30 years. (Source: EC JRC / Google)

The research findings and the maps. Published today in the journal Nature. Are available for you to explore on this new website.  The data are also freely available in Google Earth Engine for further research, use. And download.  These new maps, statistics and the stories of change they reveal provide essential information which can aid global water security. Agricultural planning. Disaster preparedness, public health. Climate understanding and more. Offering the most detailed view to date of one of our planet’s most vital resources.

With contributions from Alan Belward, Andrew Cottam and Jean-François Pekel, Joint Research Centre. European Commission.

Since then. Another effect of the historic flood is becoming apparent.

It now also carries a lot less of the sediment that created and replenished the delta. Without that, more than 13 thousand square kilometers of the delta — an area 10 times the size of London is slowly slipping into the Gulf of Mexico. Once again the river is threatening to displace thousands and drown the fragile delta wetlands. The change of the Mississippi over decades is just one of the hundreds of stories of similarly dramatic change around the globe;. Although the area covered by water in the U.S. has overall increased a little.

Since then. Another effect of the historic flood is becoming apparent.

It now also carries a lot less of the sediment that created and replenished the delta. Without that, more than 13 thousand square kilometers of the delta — an area 10 times the size of London is slowly slipping into the Gulf of Mexico. Once again the river is threatening to displace thousands and drown the fragile delta wetlands. The change of the Mississippi over decades is just one of the hundreds of stories of similarly dramatic change around the globe;. Although the area covered by water in the U.S. has overall increased a little.

It now also carries a lot less of the sediment that created and replenished the delta. Without that, more than 13 thousand square kilometers of the delta — an area 10 times the size of London is slowly slipping into the Gulf of Mexico. Once again the river is threatening to displace thousands and drown the fragile delta wetlands. The change of the Mississippi over decades is just one of the hundreds of stories of similarly dramatic change around the globe;. Although the area covered by water in the U.S. has overall increased a little.

After school This teen tracks climate change with NASA.

After school This teen tracks climate change with NASA.

After school This teen

Editor’s Note: Liza Goldberg is a 17-year-old scientist interning at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Biospheric Sciences Lab. Today, she shares how Google Earth Engine helps her monitor mangroves. Which are ecosystems vital to the sustainability of coastal communities around the world.  

I first heard the words “climate change” when I was 9. As a fourth grade student in Maryland. My class studied the local Chesapeake Bay;. We raised horseshoe crabs and observed the effects of extreme weather and sea level rise on the ecosystem. After studying the human environment interactions in my community and the broader region. I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to curbing climate change.

After school This teen tracks climate change with NASA.

Two years later. I began a science fair project to study the impacts of simulated warming on the carbon dioxide exchange of red maple saplings. Every weekend for three years. I used a gas analyzer to test eight trees I planted in my backyard. And submitted the project to a local fair. I explained my research to a judge. Who connected me with scientists in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Biospheric Sciences Lab. Thanks to that connection, I went from testing saplings in my backyard to working with a world renowned team of forest change scientists at age 14.

After school This teen

Building the artificial warming chambers for my science project in my backyard.

My research group studies mangrove forests. Which are vital coastal ecosystems that buffer infrastructure during extreme weather and support local fisheries. When I first began my internship at NASA in 2016. I had never heard of mangroves or learned about the scope of global forest losses. But I began reading news articles about a series of widespread mangrove losses occurring in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia. Thousands of hectares of forests died that year. And scientists didn’t gain a complete understanding of what caused the devastation until much later. I decided to build a program that could use satellite imagery to monitor the location and drivers of mangrove loss. Potentially helping to prevent another large-scale dieback in the future.

Google Earth Engine provided me with the scope of datasets. And computing power necessary to analyze forest change on a global scale. I began my project at NASA with no knowledge of satellites or image processing. But guidance from my mentors. Dr. David Lagomasino and Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo. And my intensive studying of the Earth Engine developer resources helped me move from endless notes and plans to actual working code.

In mapping past global mangrove losses and drivers. We used long term Landsat satellite imagery to identify regions of disturbance. Machine learning algorithms helped to identify where mangroves were converted to urban regions. Agriculture. Aquaculture or mudflats. Using the Earth Engine Apps interface. We’re working towards making our data both openly accessible and widely understandable for users of any background. Communicating our results at a comprehensible level is arguably as important as the science itself. As the ultimate goal of the project is to deliver our data to mangrove reliant communities on the ground.

After school This teen

The beginning stages of EcoMap, a global mangrove loss and vulnerability system.

We’re currently working with conservationists and researchers at:. The Everglades Foundation to use our mangrove loss driver data to understand the impacts of sea level rise and hurricanes in Everglades National Park. In the future. We also aim to provide coastal communities in East Africa with the real time loss and loss driver data necessary to sustainably manage and conserve local forests.

After school This teen tracks climate change with NASA.

My story is just one example of the impact of mentorship and resources on research development. Regardless of age. I entered my NASA project with a set of seemingly unattainable goals, and the combination of my mentors’ guidance and Earth Engine’s power helped to make them reality. As this field progresses. I am excited to continue using Earth Engine as a means of monitoring a changing planet. And balancing its needs with those of society.

After school This teen tracks climate change with NASA

Earthtopomaps.com

I first heard the words “climate change” when I was 9. Which are vital coastal ecosystems that buffer infrastructure during extreme weather and support local fisheries. When I first began my internship at NASA in 2016. But I began reading news articles about a series of widespread mangrove losses occurring in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia. And scientists didn’t gain a complete understanding of what caused the devastation until much later. Potentially helping to prevent another large-scale dieback in the future. We also aim to provide coastal communities in East Africa with the real time loss and loss driver data necessary to sustainably manage and conserve local forests.

I first heard the words “climate change” when I was 9. Which are vital coastal ecosystems that buffer infrastructure during extreme weather and support local fisheries. When I first began my internship at NASA in 2016. But I began reading news articles about a series of widespread mangrove losses occurring in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia. And scientists didn’t gain a complete understanding of what caused the devastation until much later. Potentially helping to prevent another large-scale dieback in the future. We also aim to provide coastal communities in East Africa with the real time loss and loss driver data necessary to sustainably manage and conserve local forests.

Introducing Earth Engine

Introducing Earth Engine

introducing earth engine

We’re at a unique inflection point in our relationship with the planet. We face existential climate threats a growing crisis already manifesting in extreme weather events. Coupled with the loss of nature resulting from human activities such as deforestation. But at the same time. The world is mobilizing around climate action. Citizens are demanding progress. And governments and companies are making unprecedented commitments to transform how we live on this planet from policy decisions to business practices. Over the years. One of the top climate challenges I’ve heard from businesses, governments and organizations is that they’re drowning in data but thirsty for insights.

So starting today, we’re making Google Earth Engine available to businesses and governments worldwide 

As an enterprise-grade service through Google Cloud. With access to reliable, up-to-date insights on how our planet is changing. Organizations will be better equipped to move their sustainability efforts forward.

Google Earth Engine. Which originally launched to scientists and NGOs in 2010, is a leading technology for planetary-scale environmental monitoring. Google Earth Engine combines data from hundreds of satellites and earth observation datasets with powerful cloud computing to show timely. Accurate. High resolution insights about the state of the world’s habitats and ecosystems. And how they’re changing over time. With one of the largest publicly available data catalogs. And a global data archive that goes back 50 years and updates every 15 minutes. It’s possible to detect trends and understand correlations between human activities and environmental impact. This technology is already beginning to bring greater transparency and traceability to commodity supply chains. Supporting climate resilience. And allowing for more sustainable management of natural resources such as forests and water.

Earth Engine will be available at no charge to government researchers, least-developed countries. Tribal nations and news organizations. And it will remain available at no cost for nonprofit organizations. Research scientists. And other impact users for their non-commercial and research projects.

Earth Engine will also be available to startups that are a part of the Google for Startups Cloud Program. Through this initiative we provide funded startups with access to dedicated mentors. Industry experts. Product and technical support, and Cloud cost coverage (up to $100,000) for each of the first two years and more.

How organizations are using Earth Engine

Since we announced the preview of Earth Engine in Google Cloud last October. We’ve been working with dozens of companies and organizations across industries from consumer packaged goods and insurance companies to agriculture technology and the public sector to use Earth Engine’s satellite imagery. And geospatial data in incredible ways.

introducing earth engine

Dynamic World, a global machine learning derived land classification over time available in Earth Engine’s

Public data catalog, was developed in partnership with World Resources Institute (WRI).

For example. Regrow. A company that helps large consumer packaged goods corporations decarbonize their agricultural practices, started using Earth Engine to report and verify regenerative and sustainable techniques. Through Earth Engine’s analysis of historical and satellite imagery. Regrow can generate granular field data at the state or country levels across millions of acres of farmland around the world.

Introducing Earth Engine

  • Quote from Juan Delard de Rigoulieres Mantelli. CTO of Regrow:. “Regrow aims to make regenerative agriculture ubiquitous across the globe with an overall mission to mitigate climate change. Earth Engine has allowed us to scale our technology and increase confidence in our data and reports.”

As climate change causes shifts in biodiversity. Earth Engine is helping communities adapt to the effects of these changes, such as new mosquito outbreaks. SC Johnson partnered with Google Cloud to use Earth Engine to develop a publicly accessible. Predictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide. The forecast accounts for billions of individual weather data points and over 60 years of mosquito knowledge in forecasting models.

introducing earth engine

For organizations that may not have resources dedicated to working with Earth Engine,

We’ve continued to grow our partner network to support them. For example. Our partner NGIS worked with Rainforest Trust to get action-oriented and tailored insights that can help them conserve 39 million acres of tropical forests around the world.

introducing earth engine

It’s not too late to protect and restore a livable planet for ourselves and generations to come. Climate change experts have declared the next ten years the ‘Decade of Action’, a critical time to act in order to curb the effects of climate change. Making a global difference will require a transformational change from everyone. Including businesses and governments. With Google Earth Engine. We hope to help organizations contribute to this change

bute to this chang

Earthtopomaps.com

Introducing Earth Engine

Coupled with the loss of nature resulting from human activities such as deforestation. But at the same time.

One of the top climate challenges I’ve heard from businesses, governments and organizations is that they’re drowning in data but thirsty for insights.

So starting today, we’re making Google Earth Engine available to businesses and governments worldwide

And allowing for more sustainable management of natural resources such as forests and water.

Earth Engine will also be available to startups that are a part of the Google for Startups Cloud Program.

Since we announced the preview of Earth Engine in Google Cloud last October.

“Regrow aims to make regenerative agriculture ubiquitous across the globe with an overall mission to mitigate climate change.

aPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

bPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

cPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

aPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

bPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

cPredictive model of when and where mosquito populations are emerging nationwide.

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