Last month, Google announced the launch of Google Earth 5.0 – The Ocean, a new feature that enables users of Google Earth to dive beneath the water surface, explore 3D underwater terrain and browse ocean-related content contributed by leaders in ocean science and advocacy.
At the launch event in San Francisco, former vice-president Al Gore said the following to event attendees:
“With this latest version of Google Earth, you can not only zoom into whatever part of our planet’s surface you wish to examine in closer detail, you can now dive into the world’s oceans that cover almost three-quarters of the planet and discover new wonders that had not been accessible in previous versions of this magical experience.”
Opportunity to study world’s oceans in the context of climate change
At first glance, the ocean feature appears to be not much more than a cool tool. However, it actually has bigger implications for studying the role of the ocean in the context of climate change. Ocean researchers, many of whom gathered at the Google Earth 5.0 launch, provided proof of the need to display ocean data in an attempt to educate the public.
To illustrate this CNN, said that researchers at Stanford University and Duke University were eager to show the tracks of shark travels recorded by radio transmission to satellites. Another showed a Google Earth animation of the gradually shrinking Arctic ice cap over the last 29 years; a third supplied underwater video of the Red Sea as part of the foundation’s mission to chronicle the state of coral reefs.
According to Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, the discussion on climate change, typically neglects the world’s oceans even though about one third of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans. Recently, there has been increased awareness about issues such as acid oceans, biodiversity loss in our oceans and the importance of sustainable fishing. Google Earth 5.0 will serve as a platform not just to witness life in the ocean but also to understand its threats and dangers.
Take a virtual scuba diving trip
The ocean feature is on by default in the newest version of Google Earth. As users zoom in on the ocean they will see a dynamic water surface, and once they dive beneath the surface they can navigate 3D sea floor terrain. The feature includes 20 content layers, containing information contributed by the world’s leading scientists, researchers, and ocean explorers. These include:
- An “Explore the Ocean” layer containing photos and videos about ocean hot spots around the world contributed by over 80 individuals and organizations
- A National Geographic Magazine geo-quiz and overlays from their new Atlas of the Ocean
- Videos from the archives of Jacques Cousteau, featuring never-before-seen footage of historic ocean expeditions
If nothing else, the ocean feature will provide a convenient way for people to go virtual scuba diving to explore life in the under the sea. Virtual travelers to Hawaii, for example, can examine underwater volcanoes, see videos about the exotic marine life of the region, read about nearby shipwrecks and contribute photos and videos of favorite surf spots.
You can also use the feature to make smart choices about seafood in your area. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, has used Google Earth to show the location of various types of fish — along with ratings for people about whether they should eat those varieties or substitute others.
Google Earth Takes the Plunge below provides a wonderful video preview of these features.