AGU Fall Meeting – Day 2 Highlights

This is the second summary from the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference I attended in San Francisco last week. Read the first summary for more details on the event and why I attended. There were too many interesting presentations for me to summarize them all at once, and the organizers do plan to post presentations sometime after the event (I suspect after the new year).
The second day was a similar format with oral presentations in the morning followed by poster sessions/demos in the afternoon. I liked the fact that the organizers set up a mixture of presentations of enthusiasts and developers of geospatial products, and a larger group of scientific visualizations. Not surprisingly, pretty much all of the presenters mentioned using Google Earth – but, there were also many using Google Maps and some using NASA WorldWind and other tools for specific applications. Google Earth is the favorite tool for powerful 3D visualizations. But, it is sometimes difficult to do live presentations in oral presentations due to audio visual/Internet issues. Fortunately GE demonstrates quite well with videos – which is what most presenters used.
There were two interesting applications of Google Earth I wanted to highlight in this summary:
Declan De Poar of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Department of Physics gave a presentation about using Collada 3D models (the format used in Google Earth), to better illustrate geological research and education. He demonstrated several examples where using basic 3D primitives you could demonstrate seismic fault models and many other concepts difficult to illustrate in any other way. More importantly, he has come up with the best way to illustrate sub-surface characteristics I’ve seen yet for Google Earth (subsurface illustration is something geologists have been wanting for a long time for GE). Declan simply makes a copy of the surface imagery and places it on top of a 3D block, then uses time animation to rise the block out of the ground. He then places illustrations on the sides of the “ground” block so you can show what’s under the surface. A simple, but very elegant solution! Richard Treves was also quite excited by this idea.
The second presentation I wanted to mention was by the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, Univ. of New Hampshire (summary here). Working in conjunction with NOAA, they have developed an excellent visualization in Google Earth to illustrate where shipping traffic has been accidentally killing right whales (these whales are close to extinction). They took data on reports of whale collisions and detailed shipping position tracks (from NOAA AIS vessel tracking), and combined it with known whale migration patterns. This resulted in discovering that with some slight modifications to shipping traffic paterns, vessels could greatly reduce chances of collisions. Google Earth clearly illustrates the dynamics of the situation. I hope to get a screenshot and KML file from these guys later.
For those of you wondering, the purpose of my presentation was to encourage scientists to develop more and better science visualizations using Google Earth. I offered tips on developing better content, explained how to reach a larger audience on the GE platform, and showed some powerful science visualizations (written about at GEB). I explained GE can be used to reach a really large audience, which could not only help spread the word on important results, but might help them raise more funding. I showed a cool video which I plan to post on YouTube after I do some tweaking.
I forgot to mention in the first report that Google had a booth at this year’s event. They were showing examples of Google Earth in action and were giving out some Google swag if people would answer a quiz by using Google Earth to find places based on geography questions. It really worked out well that the Google booth happened to be in the same row as the poster sessions. This made it easier to hang out talking to scientists about using Google Earth and speaking to Googlers about new Google Earth ideas and content development challenges.
I plan to summarize more AGU highlights in the coming weeks.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Frank,
    Thanks for coming by the UNH/NOAA poster and plasma display. I’ve put a image of the poster online:

  2. Hi there,
    Do you plan to make a copy of your presentation available by any chance? I’d love to hear (if there is a podcast) or see it?

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