Google's free Google
Earth software is a great tool for learning about our environment. It
lets you see any place on Earth from a satellite view. And you can
zoom in and see incredible detail.
If you don't have it
on your computer, you can download Google Earth free
Versions are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
To really get a
better understanding of our Earth's environmental situation, you can
close up view of a place like the tiny island of Tuvalu. If you
have the software on your computer, type "Vaitupu, Tuvalu" in
the search box to go there.
Quick tip: If you're not familiar with the software, it's easy to
zoom in and out. Put your mouse point in the upper right corner of
the image area, where you see the compass (the circle with the
"N"). A slider will appear. Just click and drag the slider to zoom
in and out.
What's the problem with Tuvalu? Well, it's so low above sea level
that if sea levels rise, it may be covered under water. Inhabitants
may have to relocate to New Zealand. (read
about Tuvalu on Wikipedia) And there are other low lying island
and coastal areas that may be affected by rising sea levels.
Google has allowed
web developers to make "keyhole" files that overlay the image with
information. These files end in the extension "kml". Try doing a
Google search for "glacier kml". You may see a kml file for Glacier
National Park. If you click on the link, it will load that data (in
this case from Discovery.com) into Google Earth. You can double click
on the little yellow push pins to zoom on on specific glaciers.
Melting In Montana Park, U.N. Is Asked To Declare Park an Endangered
World Heritage site)
Here's a view zoomed in just above the
"Garden Wall" in Glacier National Park. You can "fly" over the peak by
using controls on your keyboard or mouse, and it's very realistic.
This is the same area, but zoomed out.
These glaciers may be gone in the next few decades.
Try these interesting
searches: "Gulf of Mexico" - warmer waters there seem to be increasing
the intensity of hurricanes. See what states are affected.
How about this: type
in 35.802n, 114.975w to the search box and see what you get. Can
you figure out what it is? Scroll to the bottom of this page for the
Take a peek at "Osa,
Costa Rica". Can you guess what the significance of this location is?
It's an area where the Nature Conservancy has protected 100,000 acres
of land (and, importantly, the trees and other plant life) through
their Adopt an Acre® program.
And it's not just
environmental issues that Google Earth is so important for. Try this. Type in
"Darfur, Sudan" to go there. Then look for "Layers" to the left of the
image. Click on "Global Awareness" to expand it. "Click on "USHMM:
Crisis in Darfur" and you'll see additional information appear. There
are layers to learn about things like Jane Goodall's Gombe Stream
Research Center in Tanzania.
A warning about
exploring your planet with Google Earth... you can spend more time
than you expect exploring!
35.802N, 114.975W is the location of Nevada Solar One, one of the
largest solar power generating facilities in the world.