The Rise and Fall
(and rise again?)
of Digital Earth
Keith Clarke
Karl Grossner
Gerhard Mercator:
Terrestrial globe,
Ø 41 cm, 1541
© Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Mary Baker Eddy Library for the
Betterment of Humanity 1935
Figure The Geoscope, as drawn by Tom
Shannon, for the Buckminster Fuller Institute
“This giant, 200-foot diameter sphere will be a miniature earth -- the most
accurate global representation of our planet ever to be realized."
"This…Geoscope would make it possible for humans to identify the true
scale of themselves and their activities on this planet. Humans could thus
comprehend much more readily that their personal survival problems
related intimately to all humanity's survival." — R. Buckminster Fuller, 1962
Gore’s Earth in the Balance (1992)
“A multi-resolution, three dimensional
representation of the planet, into which
we can embed vast quantities of georeferenced data.”
Gore’s Digital Earth
“Imagine, for example, a young child going to a Digital Earth exhibit at a local museum. After donning a headmounted display, she sees Earth as it appears from space. Using a data glove, she zooms in, using higher
and higher levels of resolution, to see continents, then regions, countries, cities, and finally individual
houses, trees, and other natural and man-made objects. Having found an area of the planet she is interested
in exploring, she takes the equivalent of a ‘magic carpet ride’ through a 3-D visualization of the terrain. Of
course, terrain is only one of the numerous kinds of data with which she can interact. Using the system’s
voice recognition capabilities, she is able to request information on land cover, distribution of plant and
animal species, real-time weather, roads, political boundaries, and population. She can also visualize the
environmental information that she and other students all over the world have collected as part of the
GLOBE project. This information can be seamlessly fused with the digital map or terrain data. She can get
more information on many of the objects she sees by using her data glove to click on a hyperlink. To
prepare for her family’s vacation to Yellowstone National Park, for example, she plans the perfect hike to
the geysers, bison, and bighorn sheep that she has just read about. In fact, she can follow the trail visually
from start to finish before she ever leaves the museum in her hometown.
She is not limited to moving through space, but can also travel through time. After taking a virtual field-trip
to Paris to visit the Louvre, she moves backward in time to learn about French history, perusing digitized
maps overlaid on the surface of the Digital Earth, newsreel footage, oral history, newspapers and other
primary sources. She sends some of this information to her personal e-mail address to study later. The timeline, which stretches off in the distance, can be set for days, years, centuries, or even geological epochs, for
those occasions when she wants to learn more about dinosaurs.” (U.S. Vice President Al Gore, in a speech
written for presentation at the California Science Museum, Los Angeles, January 1998)
World wide participation
The NASA web site participation
IDEW (interagency Digital Earth Working Group)
ISDE (International Society for Digital Earth)
OpenGIS Consortium
University of Maryland
Digital Earth Symposia
Beijing (1999)
New Brunswick, Canada (2001)
Brno, Czech Republic (2003)
Tokyo (2005)
Auckland (2006)
San Francisco (2007) “Bringing Digital
Earth Home”
Consensus definition 1999
• Digital Earth will be a virtual
representation of our planet that enables
a person to explore and interact with the
vast amounts of natural and cultural
information gathered about the Earth.
(Consensus definition adopted at 2nd
interagency workshop, 1999 Sept 23)
Google Earth: A history
• Keyhole Earthviewer. In-Q-tel funding,
Dual use
• Google Maps
• Google buys Keyhole (Oct. 2004)
• Google Earth (June 2005)
• Google Earth Community added
• Partnership with National Geographic
Geobrowser demo
Karl Grossner movie
Digital Earth
Is Google Earth Digital Earth?
NO: because
Geobrowser + Global data
Possibly several browsers
– NASA Worldwind (2003)
– GeoFusion GeoPlayer (2001)
– ESRI ArcGlobe
NASA Worldwind
ArcGlobe: 3D Analyst Extension
Global maps
• Crosses boundary between
Global Maps
• International Millionth Map of the World
• GlobalMap
The Millionth Map of the World Project
• German Geographer Albrecht Penck (1858-1945) was a major
proponent of consistent and accurate maps to represent the entire
planet, including its natural and human features.
• Penck proposed a worldwide system of maps at the Fifth
International Geographical Conference in 1891.
• International Map of the World, would consist of 2500 individual
maps, each at a scale of 1:1,000,000
• Each map would represent four degrees of latitude and six degrees
of longitude.
• 1913, Penck's idea came to fruition when an international
conference was held to establish standards for the maps, which also
became known as the Millionth Map of the World due to the map
series' scale.
• The 1913 standards established that maps would use the local form
of each place name in the Roman alphabet (thus, languages that
use other alphabets would need to transliterate their place names).
Australia Series (Part)
International Map of the World
Each map would have a legend printed in English and French and the
title of the maps would be written in French, Carte Internationale du
Monde au 1 000 000.
Following the Paris conference, the "Central Bureau of the Map of the
World" was established at the offices of Great Britain's Ordnance
Survey. After 1913, over three dozen countries began to produce maps.
By World War I only eight maps, out of 2500 had been produced.
In 1921, the American Geographic Society took it upon themselves to
produce the map sheets for the countries of Central and South America.
They worked from 1921 to 1946 to produce 107 maps, a project that
cost the organization $570,000.
By the 1930s, 405 maps had been produced although only half adhered
to the standards of the project.
World War II, the project suffered because the Bureau offices, along with
the archives and data for maps, were destroyed by bombing.
The newly-created United Nations took control of the Millionth Map
project in 1953 but international interest slackened. By the 1980s, only
about 800 to 1000 total maps had been created and the U.N. stopped
issuing their regular reports about the status of the project
Planned remote
sensing systems
from CCRS (Canada)
Planned launch date: 2004, Pan: 2.5 m
Planned launch date: late 2004, Pan: 1 m
CBERS 3 (China/Brazil)
Planned launch date: 2005, Resolution (Panchromatic): 5 m
EROS A1 (USA/Israel)
Launch date: 05-DEC-2000
Resolution (Panchromatic): 1.8 m, Altitude: 480 km
Planned launch date: 2004
Pan: 0.8 m, Altitude: 600 km
Planned launch date: 2004
Pan: 0.8 m, Multispectral: 3.3 m, Altitude: 600 km
Launch date: 24-SEP-1999
Pan: 1 m, Multispectral: 4 m, Altitude: 680 km
Launch date: 29-SEP-97
Pan: 5.8 m, Altitude: 800 km
Launch occurred on September 21, 2001
* Satellite did not reach orbit = bankruptcy!
Launched 26-JUN-2003
Pan: 1m Multispectral: 4m
QuickBird 2 (renamed as QuickBird)
Launch date: 18 October 2001
Pan: 0.61 m, Multispectral 2.44 m
Planned launch: 2004, SAR: 3 m
Launch date: 17-FEB-1998
Digitized/Scanned Film
Pan: 1.56 m, Altitude: 220 km
Planned launched 3-MAY-2002
Pan: 2.5 m, Multispectral: 5 m
Planned remote
sensing systems
17 March 2002 GRACE, USA/German,
gravitational field and shifting water mass
6 Jan 2003 Coriolis/WindSat USA, wind speed
13 Jan 2003 ICESat (EOS-LAM) USA, Ice sheet
25 Jan 2003 Sorce USA, Solar radiance
Planned for early 2004 IRS-P6, India
India, Resourcesat, 10 m pan, 23 m
June 2003 DMSP-16 USA, weather, 500m
Jan 2004 GOES-N USA, weather, 1km
Planned for 2004 CBERS-2 China/Brasil,
Planned for 2004 TopSAT UK, 2.5m
2004 Kompsat-1 Korea, topo mapping
2005 EagleEye Germany, 5-7 m
Planned for late 2005 METOP-1
ESA (Europe’s NASA), weather 1 km
30 June 2004 NOAA-N USA, weather 1 km
2005 GOES-O USA, weather 1 km
2005 TerraSAR-L1 Germany/UK 1-30m SAR
2005 TerraSAR-X1 Germany/UK 1-30m SAR
2010 TerraSAR-2 Germany/UK 1-30m SAR
2007 GOES-P USA, weather 1 km
2008 GOES-Q USA, weather 1 km
Planned for mid 2010 METOP-2
ESA, weather 1 km
Linking text, maps and imagery: Fusion
Making maps and images text searchable
Data structures
Global grids
Colorado State system
New global/spatial grids: QTM
Go2 Grids
38:53:22.08N 077:02:06.86W

The Rise and fall (and rise again?) of Digital Earth