Google and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre want to see how surface water on Earth has changed over the last 30 years.
Google has partnered with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre to obtain a comprehensive view of how the surface water on Earth has changed throughout the last three decades.
“Water has been shaping our planet since it was formed, and still plays a direct and crucial role in all of our lives,” writes Google’s chief extraterrestrial Noel Gorelick. Now, we have “unprecedented detail” revealing the changes that have taken place.
Water, water everywhere
1.8 petabytes of data – equating to three million images – was downloaded from the USGS/NASA Landsat satellite programme over the course of three years and then analysed by a computer algorithm developed by the Joint Research Center running on the Google Earth Engine platform.
To put that into perspective, Google says it translates into “more than 10 million hours of computing time, roughly equivalent to a modern dual-core computer running day and night for 600 years”.
The data enabled Google to measure changes in the water surface month-by-month over 32 years to an accuracy of 30 metres and some of the findings make for very interesting reading. For example, 90 thousand square kilometres of water have completely vanished and, while over 200 thousand square kilometers of new, mostly man-made water bodies were born.
Further more, Iran and Afghanistan both lost over a half of their water area and just western states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah – account for a third of the total loss in U.S. water surface.