Friday, December 11, 2009

Tracking Deforestation With Help From Google's Cloud

Countries will now have an easier time tracking the destruction of their forests, thanks to satellite images and cloud computing.

At the International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen Thursday, Google introduced technology that enables online observation of deforestation over time.

The technology helps nations benefit from the United Nations' REDD framework (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), which pays countries with rainforests to protect their forests from denudation. To be eligible, the deforestation must be independently verified and tracked over time. Many of the tropical countries where deforestation occurs lack the funds to adequately monitor the forests' destruction.

Google Earth will provide the satellite images recording the advance of deforestation. The data will be combined with existing software from the Carnegie Institution for Science and Imazon, which maps forest cover and deforestation using satellite imagery.

All these petabytes of historical satellite image data will be crunched in thousands of computers in Google's data centers worldwide.

Google will provide the world this technology as a not-for-profit service. It is available at present to a few organizations for testing, and may be offered "more broadly" in 2010.

The advantages of using the cloud to compute deforestation data: lightning speed, lower costs, privacy, security and transparency. Add in the environmental benefits from halting or slowing deforestation and REDD financial incentives to rainforest countries, and everyone's a winner.

(Source of story: Mediapost.)

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