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Google Earth Dives Deep, Filling in Its Maps' Watery Gaps


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When Google Earth first launched, the two-thirds of the planet that is covered by water was simply left blue. "We had this arbitrary distinction that if it was below sea level it didn't count," says Google's John Hanke. Google is now adding more data on bodies of water so new programming and data collection can be used to simulate oceans. The ocean images will soon undergo the most significant of several upgrades planned for Google Earth. Google also will add another feature, called Historical Imagery, which will enable users to scroll backward through decades of satellite images to watch how suburbia or coastal erosion affects the landscape. Another feature, called Touring, will allow users to create narrated, illustrated tours both above land and below the surface of the water to show off a hike or scuba diving spot.

The effort to fill in the oceans started two years ago when Hanke met Sylvia Earle, a former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Earle told Hanke that she loved how Google Earth showed users how one area relates to another, but asked why the water had been ignored. Since then, Earle and Hanke have worked to incorporate the oceans into Google Earth. Earle, Hanke, and others believe that adding bodies of water to Google Earth will help people see how they are connected to the oceans and increase public support for marine conservation.

From The New York Times

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