NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN GOOGLE MAPPING AND VISUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES
Maps built in Maps Engine (Platform) can be imported into and viewed on Google Earth. A potentially revolutionary feature allows importation of a DEM file such as a terrain elevation geoTiff into a Maps Engine layer which replaces the Google Earth terrain model. This could allow users to model landscape evolution in 4D by creating paleo-DEMs in gDAL, for example, and thus sequentially changing topography with time.
A second new service, Google Earth Engine, allows users to upload and analyze global satellite imagery such as LandSat and MODIS. Editing access is currently limited to trusted testers but there are broad opportunities for students to explore. Users can build their own data analysis algorithms. An application to forest cover change was published in Science in Nov. 2013. There is potential to use Google’s virtually unlimited cloud computing capacity to present the results of federally funded Big Data projects in the geosciences.
Google Maps Engine and Google Earth Engine provide potential for authentic undergraduate research opportunities, meaning experiences that include the possibility of discovering publishable ideas. This has implications for building rich online geoscience courses.