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A computer program reports on air quality in the major Spanish municipalities

[07 October 2008] Google presented the Google Earth Outreach Spain scheme at Barcelona today. Google Earth Outreach is an influential scheme offering charitable organizations and non-profit institutions the knowledge and resources required to use Google Earth and Google Maps with a view to showing and publicizing the work they do among the general public.

Air is one of the leading Spanish projects participating in the scheme through the Environmental Software and Modelling Group based at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s School of Computing. This group is showing the air quality forecasting system for all Spanish municipalities with a population of over 50,000 on Google Earth Outreach.

Roberto San José, Professor of Numerical Calculus and Environmental Numerical Models at the School of Computing, led the development of this forecasting system. The system is a latest generation model covering traffic, industry and biogenic emissions used to calculate estimated air pollutant concentrations for the coming 72 hours at a resolution of 50 km.

The outcomes, itemized according to four atmospheric pollution levels of pollutants whose concentrations are limited by Directives and Royal Decrees to reduce risks to public health, are shown in Google Earth graphics mode, as Roberto San José, Director of the Environmental Software and Modelling Group at the School, explained.

This Group has conducted over 100 projects in conjunction with European institutions, councils, regional governments and private companies, including over 35 air quality impact studies for future power stations, incinerators, petrol companies, etc.

Of the local government projects, noteworthy are air quality forecasting initiatives funded by Madrid City Council since 2000, by Madrid’s regional government, by Las Palmas de Gran Canarias City Council, and by the City of Leicester Council in Britain.

The Group has published over 200 papers in highly reputed international journals and has developed real-time impact forecasting systems for industrial sources (power stations, cement works, etc.). Its participation in over 15 European projects funded by the European Commission is a token of the quality and quantity of its research.

350 million visitors

To date, 350 million people all over the world have downloaded Google Earth. Google Earth’s Global Development section includes 16 interfaces, and private persons and organizations from all over the world have created thousands of KML files that are on show in the Google Earth Outreach Showcase.

Other Spanish scheme participants, apart from the UPM’s School of Computing, are Intermón Oxfam and Spain’s Sustainability Observatory (OSE). These associations insert written, audio and video information in Google Earth using what is known as an interface. This way their campaigns can be viewed worldwide.

Google Earth Outreach offers information on anything from the significant changes in land use in Spain over the last few decades shown by OSE, to the air quality forecasting system in place in tens of Spanish cities or Intermón Oxfam’s 18 development and fair-trade projects dotted around the planet.

As part of Google Earth Outreach Spain’s new scheme, eligible organizations are granted licences for the professional versions of Google Earth and Google SketchUp (3D modelling software), and have access to text and video tutorials showing how to use these powerful tools.