How Google Is Fighting Fire With Real-Time Mapping Data
By Sean Fleming
You probably can't outrun a forest fire. They can travel at speeds of up to 22 kilometers per hour (up to 14 miles) and are dangerously unpredictable.
The fires currently tearing through parts of northern California include the second and third largest in the state's recorded history, have seen 200,000 people asked to leave their homes and killed at least six people.
Staying one step ahead of a wildfire really can mean the difference between life and death. Not just for those caught up in one, but for the people attempting to bring such fires under control.
Google is now adding satellite data into its mapping facility to show the precise locations of wildfires in close-to real-time.
Fire boundaries are clearly marked and refreshed hourly. Google
Wildfire timelapse. Google Maps
The data also feeds into the company's maps and navigation tools, meaning anyone in the vicinity of a fire, and using Google Maps, can be alerted to the danger. Satellite data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is fed into Google Earth, and is refreshed hourly. This gives both infrared and standard optical views of the location and spread of fires.
Forest fires are part of the natural cycle of the woodland ecosystem, actually helping to maintain biodiversity. Not only does fire kickstart the germination process of many seeds, it also "initiates critical natural processes by breaking down organic matter into soil nutrients," Nasa's Earth Observatory explains.
Climate change is partly responsible for wildfire spread, or is at the very least becoming a contributory factor. Reduced rainfall in northern California has left forests and surrounding areas drier than normal, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This helps create the ideal circumstances for fires to get out of control, regardless of how they started.
Large parts of the U.S. face higher than normal fire risk this year, including California, putting lives and property in jeopardy. The cost of fighting such fires is also on the increase, almost doubling in California across the first two decades of the century.
Counting the cost of California's wildfires. Statista
Google ran a test of its fire detection feature during the 2019 California wildfires, collecting feedback from emergency services on its effectiveness.
"We collaborated with organizations, like the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and Boulder's Office of Emergency Management, to gather expert recommendations on wildfire preparedness and response," Matias writes.
"Their feedback throughout our 2019 pilot helped identify what information is most useful during emergency situations."
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
- Losses From California Wildfires Top $1 Billion, Expected to Rise ... ›
- Trump Wanted to Withhold Wildfire Aid to California Over Political ... ›
- California's Iconic Redwoods Threatened by Wildfires - EcoWatch ›
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>