API with Google Earth and Bing:
Geog 104 Exercise

Objective: The objective of the exercise is to provide some experience interpreting digitally delivered aerial imagery, and in the process to compare the imagery available in several systems. You've already started becoming familiar with Google Earth --- you've downloaded and installed the client software and maybe used the measuring and drawing tools. "Bing" is a tool from Microsoft that delivers aerial imagery without the need of a client beyond your browser. You can access it at "bing.com"; then, putting coordinates in the query box, clicking the "maps" tab, and selecting the "aerial view" gets you where you need to be.

These tools offer different kinds of support to the image interpreter (you): they limit scale ("zoom") differently; they both give you scale as a bar scale; Bing seems to give you less information. Where GE gives the viewer's elevation and the coordinates, Bing seems not to. They integrate terrain data with the image data, not quite as does stereoscopic imagery, but, when you move the viewpoint, terrain is shown as if you had a 3D view of the image draped over the terrain.

The possibility of using the imagery side of Google Maps was raised in class. If you would like to use that rather than GE or Bing, it is OK with me, just let me know on the write up.

Assignment: For ten sites (eight of the sites listed below, and for two new ones of your own finding and choice) describe (in a paragraph each) what you (the Geographer) see in the imagery, comparing Google Earth's and Bing's versions of the place and indicating which visual cues (see below) seem to be most useful in figuring out what is going on in each place. (It might help to try to zoom-in to determine what details you can discern in each image, though sometimes zooming-out for greater context rather than enlarged detail is more useful. Try both.) For each of the new places the write-up should include the latitude and longitude of the place, plus a descrptive name (to attract a student next time).

Finally, what do you conclude about the interpretation of the imagery in these tools? Is the resolution of the image databases behind these tools similar? Adequate? Is Google or Bing consistently better for apparent resolution and quality? What added facilites might improve the tools? Which cues helped you notice and identify things in the images?

Clues and Cues in API

Aerial photo interpretation (API) is a lot of fun for geographers; in it we get to show-off the melding of our detailed knowledge of the world with our powers of logical deduction and inference to learn even more. (That's way cool.) Most API texts will tell you that there are several (visual) cues that aid in object identification and image interpretation (below). I'd hasten to emphasize the cognitive over the perceptual in the process.

Places to consider

44.275484, -123.254735
South of Monroe OR. What kinds of agricultural land use do you see in the area (within 2 km)? What image clues are most useful in separating things? What is this water feature? What is it doing there?

44.367614, -121.138957
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, a regional rock climbing center. What to you make of the terrain and the surrounding land use? What do you make of the circular, the rectagular and the crescent shaped plots? And the mixture of green, beige and brown plots? Of smooth and coarser textures? There is a field in the quarter section about a half mile south of where the river rounds the southwest end of the rock formation in which someone has mowed an image of a classic video game. Can you find it? (If it is gone, you may need to check the historical view too.)

43.277727, -73.564240
Along the Champlain Canal, near Fort Edward, NY. Several barges are visible in the canal, what industry might be using them? What other transportation infrastructure do you notice? Are they connected? What is being transported? What else can you tell about the area? (Hint: some of this might be associated with the clean up of PCBs from the Hudson River. See here. )

42.794621, -73.686679
What features and activities can you spot in this facility on the NYS canal system (the current version of the Erie Canal)?

43.841689, -73.387601
Fort Ticonderoga. Perhaps the site of the first victory in the American Revolution (see some history here ). A few decades earlier, the British had taken the fort after French abandonment. The position offers a commanding view of traffic on Lake Champlain and the bold geometry of the fort stands out. Military architects could doubtless tell us a good deal about why it was shaped that way. The more agriculturally inclined may be drawn to the gardens just a little to the east.

47.108098, 17.569554
Ajka, Hungary. Can you find the alimina plant settling ponds that ruptured on 4 Oct 2010? The resulting flood killed nine and injured around 200 people, flooding several villages with toxic mud, and eventually running into the Danube River. Describe the industrial infrastructure that you can see.

41°56'23.47"N 75°14'55.90"W
What is that V-shaped feature in the river? Characterizing them as "in use" and "probably abandoned", how many of them can you find down river between here and Port Jervis? Which cues are you using for that?

32.155482, -110.859958
Davis-Monthan AFB dessert aricraft bone yard. It seems that they move aircraft more frequently than the GE community updates the labels that they have added to identify the aircraft.

32.139377, -110.867382
Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson AZ. How many air planes are on display here? How big (meters) is the largest one? What is the smallest feature that you can see in the image? Can you make out engines? propeller blades?

43.239521, -119.134071 (start zoomed out to 20 km elevation)
What is the blue and white feature? What are the smaller green circles to the north of it?

32.251857, -111.121929
mountain, erosion/outwash, agriculture to the SW

42.866083, -106.416227 (30 km --- 0.5 km elevations)
Near Casper WY. What does this area look like when "zoomed out"? Describe the terrain before "zooming in". What do you see as you zoom in? At what elevation do you see the airport? What kinds of economic activity are you seeing?

42.788951, -106.650068
West of Casper. What is the geological feature? What do you make of the (patterns of) tonal differences in the image? What do you make of the intersections of the dendritic features with the rock formations? From an oblique view and with the terrain "on" --- do the image and terrain seem to match well?

42.832749, -106.802102
What do you make of the northwest to southeast trending straight lines, and their interaction with the drainage and road networks?

38.1943, -122.2999
What are the rectangles in the "used to be" wetlands? What about all the housing in the area? Is is denser nearer the water or further back?

34.342225, -111.380065
Cedar Mesa (see here ). The site of archaeological sites dating over thousands of years, boasts miles of hiking trails and is also an area that some want to explore for oil. What can you see in the area?

55.455096, -129.473425
Kitsault, BC. Notice anything maybe a little odd, even creepy about this town?

37.5024, -122.03562
What are the green orange and white areas?

35.20085, -118.53681
Tehachapi Loop. What's going on here? How long is the loop? How much elevation is gained?

39.910112, -120.808045
Williams Loop. On the Union Pacific Railroad's Feather River Route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

37.047800, -122.044139
West of Mt Hermon. What is going on here? Logging? Mining? Something else?

40.313121, -90.06435
What is the industrial site just north of Havana, IL? What are the clues that suggest that? What do the shadows tell you about the machinery along the area running east from the river to the road.

-30.77472, 121.50944
Super Pit, "Australia's largest open cut gold mine ... off the Goldfields Highway on the south-east edge of Kalgoorie-Boulder, Western Australia ... 3.5 km long, 1.5 km wide, and 360 m deep ... large enough to see from space" (Wikipedia). But then, with the right equipment, one can see a mongoose from space.

39.908994, -105.231774
What do you make of this site? It is near the infamous Rocky Flats nuclear processing facility (the remians of which might be at 39.891251, -105.20345), and perhaps offers a brighter route to the future.

45.002933, -120.751440
Shaniko, OR. Almost a ghost town. What's the red-ish stuff in the northeast corner of the village? What do you make of the scattered green patches? Zoom out so you are seeing an area about 20 miles across: what does hte drainage network suggest about the place?

109 50 E, 40 39N
This is Bautou, in Inner Mongolia, a center for mining and processing rare earth elements. Wikipedia has the Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech Company as a major player in this industry and A BBC story on 19 Mar 2014 indicated dire environmental impacts. Can you find signs of mining and processing in the region? (Compare with Molycorp in Mountain Pass California.)

Or, flipping it around a little, can you find and provide coordinates for any of these places?

Where (lat/lon) and how big (square meters) is Amazon robotic 'fulfillment center' in Tracy, CA? What can you see of associated infrastructure around it? (see: http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4216163.html)

The new, maybe $2 billon, 1.5 millon square foot, and 12 exabyte (see wikipedia) NSA Data Center in or near Bluffdale Utah. One description had it... "Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethern headquarters..." near Bluffdale, UT. (see: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter)

Black Thunder coal mine 70km south of Gillette, WY.

Peabody's North Antelope-Rochelle coal mine.

El Chino, (Santa Rita mine) open-pit copper mine, located 24 km east of Silver City, NM (from Wikipedia's articles on El Chino Mine and Open-pit mining).

Haerwusu coal mine, China's largest coal mine in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Maybe around lat: 39.888490, lon: 110.266798

Oil tanks in Cushing, OK. (Associated with the Keystone Pipeline.)

The Hull-Rust-Mahoning Pit, called by some "the largest open-pit iron mine in the world", near Hibbing, Minnesota.

Largest Oil Refinery in the US: Baytown (TX) Refinery (ExxonMobile)
at 572,500 bbl/day it is about half the size of the world's largest (Jamnagar Refinery, Jamnagar, Gurarat, India 1,300,000 bbl/day).

Pando, The Quaking Giant, a quaking aspen colony in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest, is among the world’s largest, heaviest, and oldest living organisms. A hint from Backpacker Magazine (Sept 2010) "To take in Pando’s size, park at Doctor Creek on UT 25 and climb 500 vertical feet up Mytoge Mountain on the Lakeshore National Recreation Trail. At mile three, look back to see Pando straddling the road. Continue for a 15-mile loop."

But wait, check-out the largest organism... the mycillial mat of a honey mushroom covers 2,200 acres. in Oregon's John Day Wilderness. What's it's name? Where is it? Does it show up in google earth?

Where is Kangbashi, the "Ghost City", near Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangbashi_New_Area for Wikipedia's description of this "new city" of one million that seems to now (2012) be a mis-allocation. The BBC reported on it 6 Dec 2012.