Microsoft Debuts Environmental Atlas of Europe


Images from the Environmental Atlas of Europe via the Microsoft Environment blog.

From shipping routes opening up through the ice of the Baltic Sea to a massive plankton bloom off the coast of Ireland, from diminishing reindeer herds in Finland to the reduction of agricultural land in southeast Georgia, satellite images of the changes global warming is bringing to Europe are being deployed online by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and Microsoft to try and give the public a more vivid understanding of what is at stake in the climate-change debate.Launched during the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the interactive online Environmental Atlas of Europe initially focuses on visuals and stories from Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Lapland, Netherlands, Poland, and Russia.

Eyewitness Accounts of Warming
"The atlas stories, told by eyewitnesses across Europe, can help people understand how our world is changing as a result of climate change and -- through examples of positive actions taken by governments, communities, and people -- inspire them to take action and make a difference," said Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard. The Danish town of Thisted, which has achieved nearly carbon-neutral status, is one of the positive examples highlighted.

"The advantages satellites offer are evident," added Volker Liebig, the ESA's Director of Earth Observation. "Only from space do we have a truly global view."

The software giant and the EEA has previously collaborated on the Eye on Earth platform, which combines scientific information with on-the-ground local observations contributed by millions of users on topics such as water quality at more than 22,000 swimming sites in Europe. The AirWatch application provides real-time data on specific air pollutants from air-quality monitoring stations, as well as user-submitted descriptions of air quality in different areas. Much of the information is available through text messages as well as online.

Future plans for Eye on Earth include tracking ground-level ozone, oil spills, biodiversity, and coastal erosion to create what the partnership calls "a global observatory for environmental change."

Microsoft's Environmental Tools
Perhaps trying to polish its reputation a bit in competition with environmental do-gooder Google, Microsoft has also introduced other products and tools that deploy technology in the service of combating global warming, including:

  • MapMyClimate, a new Danish website that allows people to understand the impact of their consumer habits on the environment;
  • Project2Degrees, emissions-tracking software developed in partnership with the Clinton Foundation that allows city authorities to measure and reduce their emissions;
  • Fiat eco:Drive, a dashboard tool that helps drivers improve their fuel efficiency; and
  • Bend the Trend, a website where users around the world can pledge to make lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on emissions reduction.

More about environmental atlases and encyclopedias:
The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife
Atlas of the Real World: The Planet as You've Never Seen It
Review: The Encyclopedia of Earth
UN Publishes Satellite Atlas of Africa's Changing Environment
A Picture is Worth... UNEP's Atlas of Our Changing Environment
Book Review: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
Encyclopedia of Earth: Like Wikipedia, for the Environment

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects

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