Katrina Catch-up

Although this blog sometimes succumbs to mission creep, I usually try to keep it on target: Documenting new and innovative uses of Google Earth, as well as the social issues raised by the sudden democratization of GIS tools.

I didn’t blog weather map overlays of Katrina, as that is now a pretty mainstream use of Google Earth, and the obvious place to look for these resources is on Google Earth Community and Google Earth Hacks (I try to avoid me-too blogging). Then I was at a work retreat for a few days, only to find Katrina had turned into a category 5 story in the meantime.

The images from the ground in New Orleans are truly moving. Is there anything worth reporting from the periphery, from the perspective of a Google Earth-centric blog?

Yes, two things: First, Google Earth and its imaging provider Digital Globe, are intent on providing a much accelerated response time for image updates when it comes to mapping significant natural (and man-made) disaster news stories. If this continues, this will turn Google Earth into a much more useful real-time tool than the reference work it amounts to currently.

Second, many news organizations added their own overlays in Google Earth and used them prominently on screen — CNN in particular. The best way to grasp the extent of environmental disasters like Katrina is Google Earth, and now many more people know it.

[Update 2005-09-02: Google has a page up with overlays for Google Earth.]