SITE VISIT: Digital Earth

Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 7
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.7d

Forget about rifling through musty library drawers to find a geologic map—a new Web site makes plotting your own detailed maps almost effortless. The Geoscience Information System Interactive Map Server, created by the Institute for the Study of the Continents at Cornell University, allows anyone to tailor and download maps with everything from earthquakes to active volcanoes.

To make a map, you choose an area with the cursor or punch in longitude and latitude, then select from menus to add features such as rivers, roads, and cities. It's also fairly easy to create a profile of regional topography or cross sections of Earth's crust in some areas. You can learn about the rocks underfoot anywhere in the United States (down to 1:2,500,000 scale—“good for statewide views,” says Dogan Seber, a geology research associate who manages the site), Africa, and the Middle East, but the database's geological records are spotty for other regions. You can also upload your own data.

The site's own maps are interactive: Click on a volcano, for example, and you'll learn when it last erupted. Appendices describe the source and quality of all the available data.

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