Google’s Environmental Crisis Alerts: Earth Day Spotlight
6 mins read

Google’s Environmental Crisis Alerts: Earth Day Spotlight

On Earth Day, we not only think about climate change and natural disasters affecting our world, but also recognize technologies that help protect us when they occur.

An example of such technology is Google’s environmental crisis alerts.

Every year, countless people experience the devastating effects of natural disasters such as floods, wildfires and earthquakes, resulting in loss of life and property.

To address this global concern, Google has created Environmental Crisis Alerts that provide quick and accurate details to those affected in affected regions.

These alerts can be found via Google Search and Google Maps, and help individuals and communities take the necessary precautions and make informed decisions in times of crisis.

In this article, we examine Google’s alerts on environmental crises, such as flood forecasting, wildfire mapping, and earthquake detection, and how these innovations are helping to create safer, stronger communities.

Overview of Google’s environmental SOS alerts

Google’s SOS Alerts give people in emergencies quick access to relevant information, including summaries of events, relevant messages, emergency numbers and websites.

Over the years, visual information about natural disasters has been added to the SOS alerts.

A new navigational alert system on Google Maps also allows people to anticipate and understand the course of the disaster.

For example, in the days leading up to a hurricane, people near the affected area see a crisis alert map on Google Maps that directs them to a hurricane forecast cone.

The notification shows the predicted trajectory of the storm and the timing of its impact on specific areas.

Similarly, after an earthquake, the Crisis Map displays an earthquake shakemap.

A shakemap shows a visualization of the epicenter, magnitude, and intensity of tremors in the areas surrounding the earthquake, helping users estimate the range and impact of the earthquake.

People in India, where over 20 percent of the world’s flood deaths occur, can access flood forecasts that show the likelihood and severity of flooding in different areas.

Google has alerts for the following types of environmental crises:

  • floods
  • Forest fires
  • earthquake
  • hurricanes
  • Extreme heat

Learn more about each notification type here.

floods

Google environmental crisis alerts: Earth Day SpotlightScreenshot from: blog.google/technology/ai/flood-forecasts-india-bangladesh/, April 2023.

Floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters, significantly affecting communities and economies around the world.

To mitigate the impact of flooding, Google has worked with local governments to create real-time flood forecasting models.

These models estimate when and where flooding will occur and how severe it will be, so people can be better prepared for potential flooding.

Google’s flood forecasting technology is based on physically-oriented modeling and machine learning.

It uses data from satellite imagery, tide gauges and elevation maps to create accurate forecasts and flood models that determine flood plains and water depth.

In addition to forecasts, Google offers interactive maps that allow people to quickly see their location relative to a predicted high tide.

Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, is working to help the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies build local networks to deliver flood warning information to those who may not have access to internet-connected devices.

Forest fires

Google environmental crisis alerts: Earth Day SpotlightScreenshot from: blog.google/products/search/mapping-wildfires-with-satellite-data/, April 2023.

Wildfires pose a significant threat to communities and early detection is critical to minimize damage.

Using data from NOAA satellites and the processing power of Google Earth Engine, Google is able to detect active wildfires and generate approximate boundaries in Google Search and on Google Maps.

Created using infrared technology and optical imagery, Google wildfire boundary maps are accompanied by safety information from local authorities.

This information provides details of emergency shelter and evacuation procedures that are vital for those affected by wildfires.

earthquake

Google environmental crisis alerts: Earth Day SpotlightScreenshot from: crisisresponse.google/forecasting-and-alerts/, April 2023.

Earthquakes are particularly challenging due to their unexpected and unpredictable nature.

To address this problem, Google has partnered with ShakeAlert to send earthquake notifications directly to Android devices in California, Washington, and Oregon.

Developed by top seismologists, ShakeAlert uses data from over 700 seismometers to identify earthquakes and provide early warning.

Understanding that traditional seismometers are inaccessible in many parts of the world, Google developed the Android Earthquake Alerts System, which turned Android phones into mini seismometers and created the world’s largest earthquake detection network.

When an earthquake is detected, the system notifies Android users in the affected areas so they can take necessary precautions and find safety.

hurricanes

Google environmental crisis alerts: Earth Day SpotlightScreenshot from: crisisresponse.google/forecasting-and-alerts/, April 2023.

In the days leading up to a hurricane, Google Search and Google Maps show detailed forecast cones from authoritative sources. These cones show the storm’s predicted trajectory and help users understand the potential impact of the hurricane.

Google Maps also provides clear warnings when a user’s route could be affected by storm activity, and road conditions are kept updated to ensure safe navigation during such events.

Extreme heat

Google environmental crisis alerts: Earth Day SpotlightScreenshot from: blog.google/outreach-initiatives/sustainability/extreme-heat-support/, April 2023.

To help communities adapt to rising temperatures, Google has launched initiatives focused on extreme heat alerts and AI-powered urban heat mitigation tools.

When people search for information about extreme heat, Google Search brings up new extreme heat alerts, which provide details on when a heat wave is likely to begin and end.

Google’s alerts also include tips to keep your cool and be aware of related health concerns.

This information is prominently displayed in search results, and the alerts are developed in partnership with the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN).

Diploma

As the world faces mounting environmental crises, technologies like Google’s environmental crisis alerts are vital to keep people informed and protected.

On this Earth Day, we recognize the importance of using technology to limit the impact of natural disasters.

By giving communities access to up-to-date information and resources for disaster preparedness, Google helps reduce the impact of harsh weather conditions.


Featured Image: 3d_kot/Shutterstock