Google Earth Outreach uses Street View cars to map leaks

Environmental Defense Fund maps natural gas leaks in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island.

Google and the Environmental Defense Fund have published online interactive maps showing natural gas leaks beneath the streets of Boston, Indianapolis and New York City’s Staten Island. The maps are the first phase of a pilot project that uses specially equipped Google Street View mapping cars, under a partnership between the Fund and Google Earth Outreach. The partnership is exploring the potential of new sensing and analytical technologies to measure environmental indicators and make the information accessible to everybody. The Fund observes that although methane leaks rarely pose an immediate safety threat, leaking natural gas is a powerful greenhouse gas with 120 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Google’s Karin Tuxen-Bettman said, ‘This pilot project is meant to explore and understand the potential for the Fund and others to map and visualize important environmental information in ways that help people understand both problems and solutions.’ The Fund has worked with several leading utilities to validate the findings, which offer a new way for operators and regulators to focus and accelerate upgrades. The project’s algorithms will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific paper later this year, and made available on an open-source basis.

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