Google Earth

Mapping the Farmlands of Coastal Peru

Peru Coastal Farmlands MapIn writing about the fruit and vegetable exports of coastal Peru, I could not locate any on-line maps of the farming districts of the region. It is easy, however, to distinguish these areas in Google Earth, as the color contrasts between the lush, irrigated lands and their desert environs stand out, as do the rectilinear patterns of the cultivated fields. I have therefore constructed a rather crude map indicating the main areas of intensive farming in the strip of land sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains and extending from Lima to the Chilean border. As can be gathered by comparing the finished map with the initial Google Earth image posted here, I first outlined the cropping areas on a satellite image and then transferred the patterns to a conventional map. I was originally intending to map the entire coastal zone of Peru, but the exercise proved rather laborious and other duties unfortunately called.

South Coastal Peru GEAs can be seen from the map, the main agricultural areas cluster in north Ica Region and in southeastern Arequipa. It is thus not surprising that many if not most articles on the produce-export business focus on the Ica Valley. Most of south-coastal Peru’s farming districts, I was surprised to see, are at some distance from the ocean. Many of the agricultural valleys are long and linear, and as a result extend well inland. Intensive cropping is often clustered, moreover, near the base of the Andes, where water can be relatively abundant.

 

 

 

Old and New FieldsNot all of the areas mapped specialize in producing vegetables and fruits for foreign markets. The valleys of coastal Peru have been intensively cultivated for millennia, producing a wide array of crops for subsistence and the domestic market. On Google Earth, however, it is often possible to distinguish new tracks of agricultural land, which we can assume are export-oriented, from the older farmlands. As can be seen in the image to the left, the newer fields are larger, more regular and compact in shape, and more intensively irrigated (at least during the season when this particular satellite image was captured). Such distinguishing characteristics are common across the coastal farming districts of southern Peru.

 

 

 

New Ica FieldsIn the older agricultural areas, the separation of cultivated lands from the surrounding desert is usually stark, making it relatively easy to map agricultural zones. In some of the newer areas, on the other hand, rectangular patches of intensively cropped land are interspersed with patches of uncultivated desert, generating a cartographic challenge. In some of these places the areas brought under cultivation appear to be Crop Strips Coastal Perurandom, but in other they clearly follow the local topography (compare the two images posted to the left).

 

 

 

 

Riperian Forests Ica ValleyAs mentioned in the previous post, many of these new farmlands, and in particular those of the Ica Valley, are increasingly suffering from water shortages. Yet riparian forests are still found in some in some areas, as can be seen in the image to the left, which depicts a segment of the Ica Valley downstream from the main farming area. In the same slide one can see what may be abandoned fields; similar features are apparent along the margins many other cultivated corridors of coastal Peru.

Of course there is only so much that one could do with Google Earth, invaluable though it is. Detailed fieldwork in this area would be necessary to answer many of the questions posed here. Further work could also help address the appalling lack of on-line, English-language information on Peru. The Wikipedia articles on the regions of Peru, as the country’s first-order divisions are called, are meager, while those on the country’s lower-level provinces are so skimpy as to be worthless. Even finding basic information on such features as per capita GDP by region, whether in English or Spanish, proved to be too time-consuming to be worthwhile, thwarting my desire to construct an economic map of the country. Some of the Wikipedia articles on Peruvian places, moreover, are in dire need of editing. Consider, for example, this passage on the city of Nazca:

Nasca, is as it is called today, is a dry, why in time of the Incas was a formidable work of hydraulic engineering, water trayento Heights in underground branches, called aqueducts, which serve to present , to irrigate farmland and for home use.

 

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The Census of Marine Life in Google Earth

The Census of Marine Life, is the major international oceanographic research project involving researchers in over 80 countries, who tagged more than 120,000 types of species & millions of organisms over the past decade.

The project is now revealing their findings for the 2010 calendar year. This has served to create the first world oceanographic census, a baseline for scientific comparison. Check this video, for an eloquent and dizzying introduction the project.

A peek at this series of maps, entitled ‘Footprints’, shows in an instant the unprecedented breadth of the study.

Throughout the course of the census, thousands of new species of ocean life have been discovered, with millions of individual organisms catalogued & counted.

Thousands of smaller, specific studies have formed the core of this oceanographic census. The sum of the results from wave height & oceanic topography censors, studies on human impacts on oceanic ecosystems, projections from the International Census of Marine Microbes, and more work to paint the most complete portraiture of the ocean possible thus far.

One of the finest, and most widespread contributions from the CoML project, is built in to the Ocean’s feature, in the layers panel of Google Earth 5.

Activating the census of marine life tab in Google Earth gives access to the findings, photos, and information from over 130 waypoints cataloguing a variety of fieldwork performed throughout the census.

The census is still taking submissions from their own oceanographers & researchers, and adding more stories from the project to Google Earth.

As a bonus, the census also features three guided Google Earth Tours: The Census of Marine Life Global Tour, a Trans-Pacific Sea Turtle Migration Tour, and a deep ocean Dive Through tour.

Quite frankly, this is close to the human genome project of Oceanography, in terms of scope and ambition. The Census of Marine Life has provided GIS geeks, Young Cousteauists, and Marine Researches with enough data to sift through for lifetimes. The project has even inspired a following amongst artists.

And yet, this is only one, small, oft-unchecked box in Google Earth. Rather humbling to think about, and definitely worthy of admiration, awe, and respect.

What’s even more awe-inspiring, is that there remain millions of miles to be tagged, and thousands of species still undiscovered.

Here at GeoCurrents we’d like to give a special thanks to the Census of Marine life, for providing layers of data as deep as the Mariana Trench.

(Art by Daichi Fujita, winner of a Census of Marine Life Art Contest, and a deep sea ROV tour)

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Storm Season & The Many Gifts of NOAA in Google Earth

Happy Labor Day, readers. This the time of year that brings together Hot Dogs and Hurricane season. A time to celebrate change, whether it is global climactic change, or a change in season.


The 2010 year is characterized by a strong la Nina in the equatorial Pacific, which means a warm and wet winter for the Northern & Eastern United states, while the west coast is due for a cool and cold winter. This and with elevated sea surface temperatures, should lead to a strong season of storms for the USA.

This sets the stage for an interesting final quarter of the year in climatology, highlighted by the inevitable Atlantic Hurricane season. Unsuspecting vacationers were hit by the Nor’Easter Hurricane Earl, this weekend, the first strike in what could be a screwy season.

The following KML files are designed to help track the remainder of coming the domestic & international, season of storms, floods and wildfires. By the end of this post your Google Earth Browser should be outfitted strongly enough to render the television weather man an insult to your intelligence.

The best source for this information, as always, is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Over the past few years, the organization has compiled an invaluable library of Google Earth and GIS Resources on the web.

Beginning with the Hurricanes, there is no better place to go than NOAA for historical storm data. This KML file, containing all the Past Atlantic Storm Tracks, could have saved Galveston, TX, from meteorological hubris a hundred years back.

To track the Atlantic Hurricane season at anytime, just using a web browseruse this resource.

Weather Historians and storm chasers will also appreciate this KML file, featuring more than 50 years of Tornado tracks and data from NOAA.

The newest feature on the NOAA index of Google Earth friendly files, is this file, which tracks both ongoing and imminent floods in the United States with a live feed. Kudos to NOAA on this new release, this is difficult data to find.

A few weeks ago we posted on the series of catastrophic fires and drought across Russia. Now you can track all of the major fires, worldwide, using this KML file, from NOAA. As well, you can use this KML file to track and map drought conditions.

NOAA has also put together a richly detailed digital map on the progress fighting the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This NOAA-produced map is one of the most reliable and constantly updated maps on the spill cleanup, with dozens of layers of information.

And to close this map overload, here’s a little bit of Apocalyptic Geography. This KML file envisions the home of GeoCurrents, San Francisco Bay, one hundred years in the future, swallowed by the deluge from rising sea levels. (Source: USGS in Google Earth Forums)


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Pakistan’s Fatal Floods in Google Earth

“This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake,” commented Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). (Source)

The Indus River as of 8-21-10 via NASA/MODIS

More than 20,000,000 have been displaced, more than have 1500 perished, as the worst Monsoons in Pakistan’s 65 year history as a modern state have inundated the country with record breaking floods. At least 6 six million people are now in immediate need of aid; threatened by disease, disenfranchisement, and dislocation. Starvation looms as600,000 tons of wheat have been lost, along with whole villages’ entire means of sustenance.

The city of Muzzafargarh is a microcosm for the entire disaster. Sitting on the banks of both the Chenab and Indus rivers, the city was devastated when Monsoons caused the Indus to flood and change its course through the center of town. More than 90,000 people were evacuated from the city to 49 camps, without any guarantee of compensation or investigation of the cause of the floods, as pointed out by respected NGO OxFam International.

The combination of climate and chance spelled doom for cities like Muzzafargarh. The summer’s monsoons were fed by record sea-surface temperatures, which enabled even stronger monsoons. Combine this with excess glacial melt due to global warming, and the result is far too much stress on the Indus River’s system of canals, floodgates, dams, and barrages, all of which make up the world’s largest irrigation network.

Partner these climate factors with a network of neglected and poorly conceived dams and you have a disaster of a colossal scale. It appears that the critical point in the flooding across Waziristan and Punjab was the flooding of the Taunsa Barrage, which allowed the Indus to cut a new course across Central Pakistan.

You can add another dimension to your understanding of the Pakistani floods, by viewing the region inGoogle Earth. As a companion to this post, please download this google earth file.

Included in the post are satellite overlays from MODIS/NASA, marking the Indus’ change in course throughout August, as well as dramatic imagery of the monsoon storm clouds, the major barrages of the Indus river, and hundreds of user uploaded pictures of life in rural Pakistan.

If that’s not enough, make sure to take a look at this NASA image, to see exactly what it looks like when the Indus changes course through a village.The floods did not discriminate between Northern and Souther Pakistan. The areas of Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh, Swat, and Balochistan were all severely affected by the flooding, leaving the entire country in turmoil.

A number of human rights issues are sprouting up around the floods. NGO workers, journalists, and reporters have been denied access to relief camps. Minority Ahmaddiyas have been denied rescue, or even barred from camps. Outreach and relief efforts are still inadequate: more than half a million families are without shelter, while only 98,000 have received tents.

Meanwhile, the global community has responded sluggishly, pledging more than 800 Million Dollars in International Aid, with only 36% donated. America, Pakistan’s military ally is the primary donor, followed by a team of UN-member states.

The World Bank recently extended Pakistan a 900 million dollar loan, but it’s hard to be optimistic they’ll ever see that money again, given the Pakistani government’s demonstrably weak ability to manage the country. These floods present a major challenge in which Pakistan needs to prove itself a functional state for its own survival’s sake.

The world must heed its attention, oversight and will towards Pakistan, a state in great need, regardless of political situation. As if half a decade of drone attacks needed to be compounded by a once in a century environmental disaster. Even nuclear-rival India has donated to the relief effort. You should as well.

(image via NOAA)

A Historic July in Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies is thought to be a contributor to record flooding in Pakistan. Part of a disturbing trend likely to continue with Global Warming.
A barrage in Pakistan during more peaceful times.

Pakistan’s Fatal Floods in Google Earth Read More »

A Summer in Worldwide Human Rights Abuses–Illustrated In Google Earth

While the BP Oil Spill and the World Cup have stole headlines this summer, a number of disturbing trends have passed through the cracks of newswires without garnering a fraction of the fanfare.

To stay informed on the most pressing issues and abuses across the world, there is seldom a better resource than Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s foremost watchdog agencies for news, policy briefings, and investigative journalism without borders. Their mission statement is a reflection of their status as an indispensable NGO:

Mission Statement:
Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. We stand with victims and activists to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom, to protect people from inhumane conduct in wartime, and to bring offenders to justice. We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable. We challenge governments and those who hold power to end abusive practices and respect international human rights law. We enlist the public and the international community to support the cause of human rights for all.

This post illustrates the epicenters of the articles highlighted this summer on the Human Rights Watch website, through the medium of Google Earth.

To view the presentation: download and open this file in your Google Earth browser.

Each place-mark in the presentation has an original short summary of the infraction on human rights in question, as well as link to the original article on HRW.

There is no tour mode for this file, so please spend some extra time exploring the linked articles, and exploring the nearby panoramio photos of the areas.

The presentation is dotted with hundreds of photographs of Jamaican slums, Ossetian rubble, Saharwi Refugee Camps, Corrupt Zimbabwean Diamond Mines, and Kyrgyz Steppes to be discovered, in some of the most dangerous areas of the world for a journalist to visit.

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The Geography of the Whale Ship Essex in Google Earth

This week’s presentation is an illustration of the ill-fated voyage of the Whale Ship Essex, the real life whaling voyage that inspired Moby Dick, in Google Earth Tour mode.


To view the tour, the companion to this article, first download Google Earth, then download this file.

The story of the Whale Ship Essex begins in Nantucket Harbor, 1819. Under the direction of Captain Pollard and First Mate Owen Chase, 19 other sailors embark on a two year journey in search of riches through the Azores, Cape Verde, and around Cape Horn to the great Pacific whaling seas.

The sailors then proceed to harvest an innumerable quantity of now endangered species.

In perhaps nature’s cruelest and most ironic twist of fate, 3500 miles west from coast of South America, the Essex is struck twice at full speed in the bow by an enraged Sperm Whale. With all hands out, harpooning the whale’s kin in a shoal, the sailors can only rush back to salvage what little they can from the sinking the vessel, to begin their struggle for survival on the open ocean.

The sailors are forced to the extremes of human persistence: cannibalism, delirium, storms, drinking their own urine, ennui, sickness, hunger, thirst, disease and distrust, as they float towards the hope of survival.

Luckily for historians, there is an excellent account available, penned by the voyage’s first mate Owen Chase. While some of the truths of the encounter may be concealed or embellished in this account, Chase’s account of human suffering in the Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, rates as one of the most colorful maratime histories ever penned.

With these tortures considered, this GeoCurrent’s post highlights the mistakes in Geography made by the sailors on the essex, while outlining the major milestones in their journey from Nantucket to the open ocean, and back.

Even if Cannibalism and Whaling aren’t quite appealing to your tastes, its worth knowing what’s become of the Society Islands and Sandwich Islands. The sailors neither knew where they were at the time, and thought the islands were full of cannibals. A stern Geography lesson would have had them steering with the wind for Tahiti. The mistake forced them down a 95 day, 3500 mile long path towards cannibalism.

The sailors also flunked their Geography Bee, mistaking Ducie Island from Henderson Island, but, er… everybody makes that mistake. These two islands play a smaller role in todays world scene, as the sailors from the Mutiny on the Bounty are no longer taking refuge, ceding the spotlight in the 21st century, to Pitcarin Island, home of the world’s smallest democracy.


Bon Voyage.

(First mate owen chase wants you to learn Pacific Geography

And to Stop Whaling. Yes. You, Japan)

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Compass Roses & Marriage Proposals: Visual Poetry in Google Earth

We are in the midst of a golden age for ephemeral and accidental art. Google Earth has allowed the anonymous artisans of crafts that best viewed from thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, to find a forum for their work. Some of these works are painstakingly terraformed for years, while others are mere accidents and oddities. This post serves as a visual essay and tribute to the former and the latter. The goal of this week’s GeoCurrentCast is to create a visual essay on humanity, in the same vein as Koyaanisqatsi.


This post encompasses the best of our etchings on the landscape: crop circles with the inspiration of Da Vinci, placed compass roses to fit the scale of the earth, and offered marriage proposals acres wide. These are complemented by both chessboards and toilets fit for giants, as well as rusted out architectural sushi in the middle of Kuwait. There is an eerie intangible poetry of excess in the scale and shape of these monoliths, megaliths, and desert spires.

All of this, is presented in Google Earth’s Tour Mode.


To access the tour first download Google Earth, then download this file. Double click the video camera icon in Google Earth to start the tour.


Included as a bonus to the tour are the 150 most unusual buildings in the world, one of the finest collections of man made oddities to date. Originally created by the folks at Village of Joy, and compiled for Google Earth by munden at the indispensable Google Earth Hacks.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our feed on twitter.

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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Capped: Here’s the So What.

This week the Deepwater Horizon Response team successfully capped the leaking well with its team of Remote Operated Submarines. While it is still not certain that these caps will hold, or entirely end the disaster, it marked the first time since April 20th, that oil stopped leaking into the Gulf.


A look at BP’s live feeds of the spill, is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

A look at the most recent Google Earth imagery, however, is still an eyesore.


After 87 days, and more than 90,000,000 gallons of oil spilled, this is certainly a cause for tempered celebration, as if we were a triple amputee, elated at the fact that we get to keep our final limb.

The Gulf is now four days free of additional leaking, yet the figure of 581 miles of oiled shoreline, is a guarantee to increase. Seven thousand vessels and 40,000 hands remain deployed on cleanup process, with years of work ahead.

As of July 12, BP spent an estimated 3.5 Billion on its cleanup processes. This is actually a meager figure, considering their average annual revenue exceeds 12 billion.

Imagery from the day before the end of the spill from MODIS/Skytruth shows a significantly lessened sheen on the surface from a month ago:


Surface reports, however, are a tempered method of assessing the damage. Much of the accessible oil on the surface was burned off in the largest “controlled burns” since the first Gulf War. The these burns have created elevated levels of Methane, Hexane, and other Neurotoxins in the air from New Orleans to Florida. An artist, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, compares the smell to huffing oil paint.

What comes up, must come down, and now the Gulf States will have to content with exponentially larger quantities of sulfur dioxide in their rainfall, leading to a contamination of inland freshwater ecosystems.

The sheen is at its most megalithic below the surface, with slicks the size of small states. While the surface is certainly clearer, the effects are starting to make themselves known up the Atlantic Coast.

As we reported earlier on GeoCurrents, the Sheen had entered the North Atlantic Loop Current, and this has been corroborated with reports of oil washing ashorein near Jacksonville and St. Augustine, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

The video below represents and academic projection of the oil’s progress from the loop current, through the Atlantic coast.


While this continues, our elected representatives will continue squabbling, pretending to act in our best interests while their proposed ban on drilling is related only to worker fatalities, without sufficient environmental safeguards.

The congressional attack on BP for their supposed under the table dealings to free the Libyan Lockerbie bomber is but another attempt to divert attention and culpability through the fearmongering veil of terrorism. After all, if Cheney had not been looking tosave his billionaire cronies a few meager thousands by reigning back safety standards, the disaster may have been prevented altogether.

However, America is now in an era of de-facto legalized bribery through its lobbying machinery, leading to “Pervasive Corruption and a Poverty Trap.” Look for our elected representatives to follow all the red herrings in its investigation of its patrons.

Unfortunately we don’t have one of Dashiell Hammet’s Continental Operatives, with an oiled gull as his client, to go Blood Simple on those behind this once in a generation disaster, and those preventing proper regulation.

The hones falls on us to do what we can, to support forward thinking organizations and representatives. The gulf ecosystems have been irreversibly damaged, and organizations such as the International Bird Rescue, the National Wildlife Rescue, and A Matter of Trust are in need of financial support at this time to continue their efforts for years to come.

An ideological shift, however, is an even more important development that must result from the disaster. A new crop of muckrakers, reformists, and activists must spring forth to remove this country from the belly of its dying machinery.

After 87 days and 90,000,000 Gallons, the status quo has remains. The cap on the well may stop the flow, but the social and political ills are still gushing torrents.



Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Capped: Here’s the So What. Read More »

A Photo Tour of How Russian Billionaire & New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov Made His Billions













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(Translation: About the Planet and the Children, )







Mikhail Prokhorov is the former CEO and billion dollar shareholder in the Norlisk Mining and Metals company, as well as rapper Jay-Z’s current business parter, as majority owner of the New Jersey Nets. HIs photo has been intentionally excluded from the series above, so that his name will be associated with pollution, above all else. He once was the baron behind, Norlisk, a secretive siberian smelter city, tabbed by the BBC as the world’s largest producer of acid rain.

Prohkorov, a charming 45-year old, has made more headlines recently for hisflamboyant private life, than pollution, but. Prokhorov’s dossier, aside from chronic pollution, also includes bribery, seizure of public property via emminent domain, and business deals with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

The Smelter city of Norilsk was originally founded as a Stalinist Gulag in 1937. The temperatures are so extreme that between 1939 and 1959, the gulag claimed at least 16,806 lives. Ten degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) is warm weather in Norilisk. The sun does not shine for six months a year. Temperatures can fall to seventy below. There is a nineteen mile wide dead zone surrounding the city, few babies are born healthy, and the acid rain blankets an area the size of Germany. These are the daily realities of those who toiled to form the base of Prokhorov’s fortune.

This man could be LeBron James’s new boss, for all we know. He’s going to be signing the checks to former Stanford Star Brook Lopez. Yet it is unlikely the press, or national basketball association will make any mention of his pollution of the world’s air and Russia’s water. While Prokhorov has since sold his stake in Norlisk, the environmental damage that occurred during his leadership as director has been devastating.

National Basketball Association’s willingness to turn ablind eye to political, geographic, and environmental is unsurprising. While the Norwegian government sold their shares in Norlisk because it did not want the environmental damage on their conscience, the NBA is not nearly as progressive an organization. Ecological morality is once again overlooked for the prospect of an extra few millions.

It’s fitting that Prokhorov is set to be the boss in New Jersey, of all places, because when you think Prokhorov, think Pollution (with a capital P).

The images used in this post were all generated in google earth from screenshots or the panoramio tool.

For a flyover tour of Norilsk in Google Earth, download this file.

A Photo Tour of How Russian Billionaire & New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov Made His Billions Read More »

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth

The Gulf Oil Slick as of 5/8/10



After last week’s dystopian projections on GeoCurrents, last Monday’s New York Times countered with unreasonably rosy projections. Good news sells papers. The article conveyed a sense of hope in its readers that the spill, was not as large as feared, and could be easily plugged as soon as this week. Their only quote from a so-called “Marine Biologist,” was, “The sky is not falling.”


Unfortunately, the rosy Monday articles were wrong, and their estimates on the breadth of the spill were embarrassingly low, based on faulty estimates fed to them from government agencies (see also: Iraq). Skytruth, for example, has found that initial official government and BP figures, widely quoted by the press, have been generated via ballpark estimate without proof. A NOAA Admiral is quoted, calling any estimation, “Impossible.”

Hate to break it to ya, Chicken Little, but the sky is falling. The proof can be found in the clouds of sludgy soot, bridging the ocean to the land. The proof can be found in the fact that the working environmental response plan, can be simplified as, “call us when you find dead stuff.” The proof can be found when even Al-Jazeera is sympathetic to this travesty. Just look at all the dead sea turtleswashing ashore.

The Reuters Factboxsince the spill, reads as a list of sequential failures, grand in scope and cost. The capping dome/containment system put in place days ago, has failed due to the buildup of ice-like Methane crystals / the inability to skirt the laws of physics. The rupture is more than five thousand feet below the surface of the sea, and must be accessed by these machines, as humans cannot survive at such depths.


As predicted, on GeoCurrents, last week, the slick hit the fragile Chandeleur Barrier Islands, home to the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. The Northeastern part of the slick has made its way towards the Mississippi delta. The next major milestone for the oil would be the gulf stream.

The title, worst-case-scenario, does not involve hyperbole on our part. The oil is as thick as crude comes, buried deep, and threatening the whole of the Gulf of Mexico. Until a relief well is dug (if even, possible, three months from now), the three main options to slowing the spill are: plugging the spill with a new smaller dome, cutting the pipe (which could actually increase flow), and plugging the hole with material with a “Junk Gun,” which sounds more like an item from Captain Nemo’s Nautiulus, than an effecive deterrent to what is quickly becoming the worst environmental disaster of all time.


While we can’t plug the spill from home, knowledge of the spill, is power, as always. To stay up on the true extent of the spill, here are some more of the latest tools for tracking the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Google Earth.

This GeoCurrentcast utilizes the most recent layovers available in the google earth community, combined with an original lecture, backed with the most recent Satellite Data and Imagery. The visible surface size of the slick, current flows, satellite images, and rupture sites are all marked in this file.

To view this file, open Google Earth and download this file. Then double click the video icon in Google Earth to play the tour. You can toggle the satellite imagery, overlays, and information in the Google Earth Browser on your own, outside of tour mode.

Finally, take the time to play with this web-module, which will compare the size of your own city, to the size of the oil well.

Below is a map of the spill’s forecasted trajectory through Wednesday, generated of by NOAA today (Sunday, 5/9):



A look at the above image, alongside our Google Earth Current flows, shows that within the next two weeks, the oil slick could get dangerously coast to catching a ride on the Gulf stream loop current.

So, while we await the sum totals of disaster, and are forced to burn crude a so thick and heavy and deep, not even hydrocarbon-starved microbes can decompose the oil. Instead, part of the procedure is to torch these now desolate grey-watered ocean wastelands.


Once the worst of the slick has burned off, diluted, and moved beyond the gulf, the United States will still be left swathes of unanswered questions on ecological recovery, liability(the BP FAQis a great source), social justice, and the future of Offshore Drilling in world energy policy. Hopefully this inexcusable tragedy can be used is utilized as a rallying point for change, otherwise it’s all for naught.

We’re sticking to the grim prediction at GeoCurrents.info that the Deepwater Horizon spill will be a record breaker in terms of total volume and dollars.

We are all guilty.

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth Read More »

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillustrated in Google Earth

The last few Geocurrentcasts have featured environmental disasters on a massive scale, and this week’s spill in the Gulf may top them all. If the fissure in the Ocean continues to spew anywhere near its current rate, and attempts to plug it have failed decidedly so far, the Deepwater Horizon spill is likely to become the largest oil spill in history.

Google Earth aficionados have been on the forefront, tracking and illustrating this disaster.
This week’s Geocurrentcast is a compilation of the work done this week in theGoogle Earth Forums, with a short lecture attached.

To view the Oil Spill, first download Google Earth, then download and open this KML file.

For those interested in tracking the official response and latest figures, use this website as a primary source.


The total damage is expected to be a number of billions monetarily, but the real loss comes in terms irreversible environmental damage. Not only is the Gulf thick with millions of gallons of sludge, but fires are being set to control the spill, leading to plumes of smoke on a scale previously unseen outside of the Gulf War (see also: Werner Herzog’sLessons in Darkness).

If you thought the originalGulf Dead Zone was getting lonely, just until the casualty estimates for this accident are finally tabulated. For example, don’t look for a jump in sea turtle populationsthis decade, or maybe ever again.

After the Exxon-Valdez Oil spill, less than 25% of the wildlife in the affected area survived. Still, the sting did not resonate with many worldwide, because of its relatively desolate Alaskan location. The Deepwater Horizon’s spill has hit the core of our country and has only just begun to menace fishing, agriculture, air traffic, and the environment.

Some have sprung into action for the cleanup, with a Philippine cleanup crew, starting a hair donation program soak up. Still, as they say, you can’t unfry an egg, so stock up on shrimp before its too late.

As the slick approaches the shore today, it begs the question, is this wake-up call the world needs to begin acting in earnest against the rape of our planet, or is it but another astounding milestone in the history of crimes against the planet?

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Exhausting the Inexhaustible: Ogalala and Aral Illustrated

Earlier in the week, Professor Lewis left us with a dazzling posting on the Death and Partial Rebirth of the Aral Sea.

To see the decline of the Aral and the Ogalala at its most dramatic,download this week’s Google Earth File, as the companion and informational heart of this post.

For those of you whom are still, unfamiliar, The Sea of Aral was once one of the four largest lakes in the world. However, massive mismanagement, inefficient irrigation channels, overuse, poor crop choices, were at the core of Stalin’s unwavering “Great Plan for Tranformation of Nature,” and continued by the Uzbek and Kazhahk governments until a last ditch effort to save the Lake (called a sea), turned to a puddle.


At the peak of the Aral’s water loss, the cubic volumes of entire cities would pack up and leave in a single month. What’s left are rusting caracassess of ships, and empty deserts where water once flowed. The burgeoning trade in muskrat furs is gone too, with the tides.



What’s interesting about the case of the Aral was that there is no physical change to the water level on the satellite images, until it was far too late. Of course, the real problems with the Aral were discovered after massive hubristic, expensive, and inefficient construction projects had been in the works for years. The ironic part of this decline is that during the period of the greatest drain, the satellite imagery of the water level’s decline isn’t quite there. But when the countries finally realize their error, and put measures in place, the Sea sprints into its final decline.

But this problem does not just apply to former Soviet States. The breadbasket of the United States, as well, is guilty of heinous crimes in water mismanagement with the Ogalala Aquifer.

This vast underwater freshwater system was thought to be inexhaustible by US Farmers, even later into the 20th century. Recent estimates show that the Aquifer could be dry in as little as 25 years if consumption and replenishment rates continue as they are.

US farmers will be hard pressed to switch, considering their congressional power, but seeing the Colorado River dry to a near trickle has prompted a proactive response from the USGS.

The solution in the case of the Ogalala, as well as the case of Aral, may be to simply switch away form Irrigation dependent agriculture. In other words, we should avoid costly, terraforming, “Great Plans for the Transformation of Nature.” If the Soviet Government had simply decided not decided to grow cotton in an unnatural environment, the Aral would likely be a cohesive body of water today.

The decline of the Ogalala threatens the freshwater supply of the whole of the Central United States, and merits more significant political attention. This issue was brought to my attention in such a striking manner in the google earth forums, by a fellow cyber-cartographer- Diane, whose work was to good not to share with you all.

If you also work in Google Earth, or would like to contribute and correspond with GeoCurrents, please send us a message on our twitter, or contact us here.

Also as a bonus, for those of you interested in tracking the Icelandic Volcanic Eruption (which we correctly predicted a few weeks back) in Google Earth, please refer to this KML file.

Exhausting the Inexhaustible: Ogalala and Aral Illustrated Read More »

Unmitigated Environmental Disasters Illustrated

This week’s Geocurrentcast is entirely dedicated to about baker’s dozen sites that epitomize the nasty human footprint that comes with heavy metals, heavy industry, and heavy consumerism.

 

The histories of Stalinist industrial wastelands, leaking oil Nigerian pipelines, massive American landfills, Brazilian Deforestation, smog filled Chinese cities, and towering Sarin gas smelters are all illustrated in this weeks in Google Earth tour on Geocurrents.info.

In order to view the tour, first download Google Earth.

Then download this KMZ file, with complete with descriptions, waypoints, and overlays to increase your understanding of these man made tragedies.

Rather than lecture over the tour, the areas speak for themselves. I’ve provided basic historic information, but I encourage all to see this as a call for social justice.

Unmitigated Environmental Disasters Illustrated Read More »

A Parade of Man Made Oddities: Shipwrecks, Crop Circles and the CCCP

This week was rife with tragic news: the Polish Presidential plane crash in Russia, revolutions and upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, and refugee crises emerging from Tamil emigrees from Sri Lankan, I thought it would be best to leave the gravity to the newspapers for the time being, and insert a bit of humor into this week’s Geocurrentcast.

This weeks tour, which can be accessed by downloading this KMZ File for Google Earth, is a compilation of a dozen of the most stunning, humorous, and mysterious sites that have rose to prominence the Google Earth Forums and on Google Earth Hacks.

This compendium of man made geographic oddities includes: crop circles, monolithic Antarctic remnants of the CCCP, ship graveyards and sunbathers.



The goal of this exercise, aside from dazzling you with Geographic Eye Candy, is to pique your curiosity towards the less conventional uses of Google Earth.

As a bonus to this tour, I’ve also composed and included what might be the first comedy sketch ever composed in Google Earth tour mode, ‘Jumping off Niagara Falls in a Barrel.”

Double click the video icon for this one minute long sketch, loosely based off of the existential desperation of Western New York depicted in Vincent Gallo’s landmark independent film, Buffalo 66.

As always, happy flying.

A Parade of Man Made Oddities: Shipwrecks, Crop Circles and the CCCP Read More »

The Kyrgyz Revolution, Illustrated in Google Earth

Yesterday, protestors stormed the offices of the iron-fisted Kurmanbek Bakiyev regime across all of Kyrgyzstan.

Ministers were taken hostage, government buildings- torched, police cars- turned over, and the Kyrgyz flag- replaced with the blue flag of the opposition.

The opposition has claimed that a provisional government, under the rule of former minister Rosa Otunbayeva, with a constitution to be redrawn in six months.

Bakiyev has not officially resigned power, which may lead to a residual power struggle.

he uprising came following the failure of the Bakiyev regime to capitalize on the promise of the Tulip revolution, which ousted Soviet Strongman.

Rather than echo what you’ve heard already in the news, I’d like to visually illustrate the Kyrgyz uprising in Google Earth.

To see the major sites of the Kyrgyz Revolution, the piazzas where the protests began and the buildings which were seized, download this KMZ file.

The Kyrgyz Revolution, Illustrated in Google Earth Read More »