New Mobile "App" Provides Instant Access to Earth Science Data and Images

Jan. 28, 2011Bookmark and Share
Seismic hazard from ground motion in Europe, Asia and Africa (Image credit: Center for International Earth Science Information Network)Cyclone tracks and density from 1980 to 2000 in the Western PacificView of the global ocean highlighting the limited regions where the topography of the seafloor has been mapped in detailSeafloor topography off the coast of California, including the underwater Monterey CanyonView of the South Pole showing the land and seafloor topography of the Southern Ocean and AntarcticaLandslides risk indicator for India and Asia showing the areas of moderate-to-high risks within the Himalaya Mountains and Tibet PlateauPercent of underweight children in Africa, the Middle East and IndiaView of the North Pole showing the land and seafloor topography of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding continents

Click the image to view a slideshow of screencaptures from the mobile app. slideshow

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.

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