Google Earth

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)


Announcing the Google Earth Atlas

Update: Since our site upgrade the features of the Google Earth Atlas are temporarily unavailable. We will update this page when the Atlas becomes functioning once more.

GeoCurrents.info is proud to present a brand new feature, the Google Earth Atlas.

The Google Earth Atlas is an archive of all of the site’s work in Google Earth to date, in one place, with links to the KML/KMZ files, and the companion posts on GeoCurrents.info.

The GeoCurrents.info Google Earth Atlas can be permanently accessed here: https://geocurrents.info/geatlas/geatlas.html

The Archive will be constantly updated, as it works to become one of the web’s top resources for historical geography in the medium of Google Earth.

Represented are many of the world’s most fascinating spaces: Icelandic volcanoes, Pakistani barrages, Kyrgyz city squares, smelters on the sites of former Soviet gulags, and an infinite array of crop circles & hedge mazes.

Enjoy.

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.

Scorched Earth: Russia Burns



(Photo CreditsNASA/MODIS)


Pictured above are NASA images of the Summer’s temperature anomalies that caused a massive drought, the resulting smoke from forest fires which have caused more than 100 fatalities on the way to blanketing in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in smoke since the beginning of August.

Moscow has been covered in smog, death rates in hospitals have spiked, and contaminated radioactive land in Chernobyl has burned. A ban on Russian grain exports went into effect yesterday as fires and drought have hampered at least 1/5 of the total supply.

The cost of the fires is now at a staggering $15 Billion, a figure more than that of Hurricane Katrina or the BP Spill Cleanup, and a figure estimated to be 1% of Russia’s total 2010 GDP.

Global Warming and feverish storms catalyzed the fire, but the blaze has reached disastrous proportions, through preexisting environmental degradation and local mismanagement, and the response has been hampered by government secrecy.

This video from Nasa, show’s the chronology of the outbreak, in terms of Carbon Dioxide Pollution:


This post by the cyber-cartographer “Kite Surfer” in the Google Earth Forum points out that 30 of the 50 major fires during the first week of August occurred in areas of major deforestation. More blood, ash, and toxic phlegm, can be tied back to the hands of large Russian logging and forestry operations when one considers the fact that many of these corporations were put in charge of fire control, neglected their tracts, allowed fuel unharvested fuel to build up, and failed in suppression.

A response to this post by Google Earth Boards Member MarkoPolo, outlines the crux of the issue here, citing a paper published in ‘Wildfire Magazine’. These fires are not merely a periodic natural disaster, they have been compounded by systematic mismanagement:

From THIS cover article in the July/August 2010 issue of “Wildfire” magazine entitled “Russian Disarray”: “Currently, the (Russian) state cannot legally derive profit from owning the land, such as by selling timber to fund forest management, but it can sell the land to private parties. As a result, large forest areas are being sold non-competitively for use as private hunting preserves, and private companies are harvesting large areas without returning profits or reinvesting in the land or management of the forests. In the absence of formal regulation, Russia has an extremely low efficiency in the use of forest resources: today only 28% (165 million square meters) of the logged timber volume (609 million square meters) is actually used. The cut (but unused) timber volume has led to a fuels buildup that is feeding large fires. Recent satellite images reveal that most large fires now occur in the band where most logging occurs.”

For more direct visual evidence, download this Google Earth File, which outlines areas of Deforestation and Major Fire Area. In order to view the file, download Google Earth, and then open the kml file in your browser.

The fires are proving to be a major albatross for both Vladimir Putin and Dmiti Medvedev. In early August, Medvedev was hasty to respond, more concerned with corrupt projects for 2014 olympics and his own leisure.

Vladimir Putin, however, topped his counterpart’s response with this this ridiculous PR stunt, flying a water bomber over the blaze:


The two have also shifted blame, chewing out regional authorities for their lack of response to the fires. Ironically, the lack of local accountability is a product of an executive power grab in 2004, which banned the direct election of local governors and kept individual candidates off the ballot.

These measures caused local fire prevention prefectures to lose their teeth and funding, exacerbating today’s problems. The firefighters are armed with technology as old as their website: Fireman.Ru, a fascinating database of songs and proverbs from Russian Firefighter lore, undone only in translation by the idiomatic expression. This poem, from the “Do Not Joke With Fire,” section of the site, makes for a much more immediately satisfying moralist read than a Chekhov Play:

... Splattered on the driver field of diesel fuel,
Then the pitch with home-grown tobacco cigarette.
He crushed his cigarette butt into the ground somehow
However, cases have been tobacco.
Wally gone, flashed tires,
Over the field went up suffocating fumes:
The ears are burning – kaloriyki and dumplings
Loaf of wheat bread burn.

Moral – do not smoke in a fire zone?

To close this post, here is a videos of the awe-inspiring ferocity of the firestorm:


Here’s to the safety of those fighting the blazes and touched affected by the drought.

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.

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)

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.

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.



South Africa’s Soccer Stadiums & Slums in Google Earth

The World Cup has come to an exciting start this week, with no shortage of triumph and tumult.

To begin, take a fly around the Republic of South Africa and be sure to check out all of the host cities. Google Earth has released 3D models of all ten stadiums, as well as new panoramic photographs of the venues via street view mode.




To download a tour of the venues, download this file, created by the good folks at Google Earth (also responsible for this wonderful Jacques Cousteau Inspired KML recently).

While the goaltender blunders and vuvuzelas have stolen the headlines over the first week, riot police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets on South African World Cup employees staging a peaceful protest, after they were drastically underpaid from their agreed wages or not paid at all.

For a drastic counterpoint to the fantastic 3d images of the world cup stadiums- Point your browser to the recently evicted sweltering sandy shantytown of Blikkiesdorp.


South Africa has made great strides since the release of Mandela 20 years ago. Still this news, paired with a flyover of the cities surrounding the venues reveals the extent of inequality.

The road to the world cup was paved with evictions and ‘voluntary relocation programs,’to, dare I say, whitewash the rougher edges city for the thousands of oncoming & certainly judgmental western eyes and voices.



It would best serve FIFA and the South African to consider a ban on enforcing shady business dealings with tear gas, rather than a ban on vuvuzelas or even condoms, in exchange for the illusion of safety and security.

There’s a bit more of a health risk involved.

Deepwater Horizon: Grassroots Mapping & Spill Projections

Since our last post on the Gulf Oil Slick, little progress has come, with the exception of a small containment dome & riser pipe to mitigate a minor percentage of the of the total flow.


The addiction to oil has made this Gulf Spill, something of an inevitability. After all, a spill near this calibre happened decades ago with Ixtoc, yet the rules had not tightened. This photograph, posted in the google earth forums, shows the Gulf of Mexico at night. The sheer volume of lights offshore highlight the ubiquity of gulf drilling operations.


The oil has been flowing for so long, now, that the slick has now progressed out into the Atlantic, via the Gulf Stream Loop Current. A visualization of this is available in this projection below from UCAR.


Here we’d like to highlight a major ongoing development in the geographic web to monitor the spill, Grassroots Mapping, brought to our attention by SpatialSustain.

This campaign is centered on getting as many kites outfitted with observation censors in the sky to act as independent observation stations on the gulf.


For up to date spill estimates and figures, please continue to consult Skytruth, as your primary source for information.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.