Leveraging Google geospatial AI to prepare for climate resilience
Strategic Business Executive, Climate Action, Google Cloud
Justin Huntington, Ph.D.
Chief Science Officer, Climate Engine
While there is uncertainty about how much the climate will change in the future, we know it won’t look like the past. Extreme weather events will increase in frequency and severity; the world will continue to warm, and the cost of climate change will increase.
Government plays a vital role in understanding and responding to these changes quickly. Achieving this improved response time will require data insights to ensure informed decision-making—from local to global scales. The challenge is not only urgent; it's one of the world's biggest "big data" problems.
Fortunately, new technologies to help us monitor the Earth are proliferating. Thousands of satellites take millions of images of the planet every day. Sensors generate data about temperature, precipitation, wind, soil conditions, and more—as frequently as every second. We have more information about the planet's systems than at any other time in history. And the data will only continue to grow. The problem is not the lack of data--it is harnessing this data to drive insights for decision makers to tackle climate change. That's why Google Cloud has partnered with Climate Engine.
How Climate Engine and Google Cloud enable greater climate resilience
Climate Engine is a scientist-led company that works with Google to accelerate and scale the use of Google Earth Engine's world-class geospatial capacities (in addition to those of Google Cloud Storage and BigQuery, among other tools) in support of climate action in the public sector. Powered by Google Cloud’s infrastructure, Google Earth Engine (GEE) combines a multi-petabyte catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets with planetary-scale analysis capabilities, enabling scientists, researchers, and developers to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth's surface.
With cloud-based technologies, we can leverage massive computing at a scale that generates actionable insights from Earth-based data. These insights help us better manage resources, understand risks, predict changes, and respond to disasters as we meet the challenge of climate change. Geospatial AI combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with geospatial analysis. Google Cloud's Geospatial AI solutions provide departments and agencies with a centralized system to collect, process, and deliver Earth-based data into decision-making contexts.
Climate Engine and Google Cloud provide specialists with the opportunity to go back in time and see how our landscapes have changed due to changes in climate and other human activities over the past few decades. Years of data can now be quantitatively analyzed and visualized in a matter of a few seconds, enabling government agencies to fulfill their mandates by drawing invaluable insights into how landscapes are changing, what physical and natural assets are at risk, and where the opportunities are for reducing emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.
“This is game changing for natural resource managers and scientists at public institutions at all levels of government,” says Dr. Daniel McEvoy, regional climatologist, at the Desert Research Institute & Western Regional Climate Center, Nevada System of Higher Education.
Use cases for geospatial climate information systems
The use cases for this technology are as varied as the climate challenges themselves. These include monitoring, predicting, and analyzing the risks of extreme weather events like floods, wildfire, drought, extreme heat, wind, and other climate hazards. Use cases also include tracking changes in ecosystems, disease vectors, water availability and quality, soil health, growing seasons, air pollution, and more. These use cases are some of the ways that Google Cloud and Climate Engine can help the public sector deliver on government mandates. These provide insights that are helpful for a wide range of departments, and that can be applied in spatial and temporal scales that are meaningful for governments to take action.
“Our planet is changing at a rate that we have never experienced,” says Forrest Melton of the NASA Western Water Applications Office. To respond to these changes, we must understand what is happening across a wide range of environmental variables and at geospatial scales that range from local to global. We now have access to more data about the planet than ever before. The big challenge is converting data into actionable insights and then rapidly integrating these insights into decision-making systems. Climate Engine and Google Cloud help resolve this problem through innovative analytical tools and effective use of cloud computing.”
Climate change carries an existential risk to our current and future stability and security. Together, we are working to provide transformational technologies that help meet that risk and build a safer, more resilient future for all of us.
Learn more about Google Cloud's environmental initiatives here and here.