New Mobile "App" Provides Instant Access to Earth Science Data and Images
A new mobile application provides users with simplified access to vast libraries of images and information that up until now were only available to earth and environmental scientists. The EarthObserver App, for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, displays natural features on land, undersea and in the air. Created at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the application allows users to draw from dozens of frequently updated databases from institutions throughout the world. For a limited time, it may be downloaded free at the education section of the Apple app store. The app will eventually retail for a small fee.
With EarthObserver, users can zoom into a wide range of data maps: for example, ripple marks in New York harbor; earth’s tectonic plates and their rates of movement; histories of earthquakes, volcanoes and other hazards in specific places; Arctic ice cover during different months of the year; and temperatures past and present across the world.
The application comes with overlays of political boundaries, and includes charts of U.S. offshore waters and lakes, as well as topographical maps of the United States suitable for planning hikes. Many datasets are updated monthly as new information comes in from satellites, research ships and other sources.
“This exposes the public to far richer data than has ever been available, in a form that has enormous potential beyond the flat screen of a computer,” said William B. Ryan, a marine geologist at Lamont who directed the project. Ryan sees benefits for students, educators and scientists, along with the general public. The ability to pan, zoom and call up the names of features, their elevations and other information with the fingers “gives you a tactile experience of touching the earth that results in a real retention of information,” he said. “It takes what traditionally has been in a big atlas with a complex legend and allows you to just tap your way in.”
For more information about the EarthObserver MobileApp, please visit the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory website.