19 May, 2008 Press releases

Millions of Google Earth users around the world will be able to see how climate change could affect the planet and its people over the next century, along with viewing the loss of Antarctic ice shelves over the last 50 years, thanks to a new project launched today.

The project, Climate Change in Our World, is the product of a collaboration between Google, the UK Government, the Met Office Hadley Centre and British Antarctic Survey to provide two new ‘layers’, or animations available to all users of Google Earth. Prime Minister Gordon Brown launches it today at the Google Zeitgeist conference.

One layer uses authoritative science from the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre to show world temperatures throughout the next hundred years under medium projections of greenhouse gas emissions, along with stories of how people are already being affected by changing weather patterns. Users can also access information on action that can be taken by individuals, communities, businesses and governments to tackle climate change, and highlights good work already underway.

The second layer, developed by British Antarctic Survey, shows the retreat of Antarctic ice shelves since the 1950s’, and features facts about climate change science and impacts in the Antarctic.

British Antarctic Survey Director, Professor Nick Owens, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to use the power of Google Earth technology to engage people all over the world in the importance and relevance of Antarctica in the climate change story. “

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

“Climate change is redrawing the maps of the world. Its impacts will be felt everywhere, as sea levels rise, crops fail, extreme weather increases and more areas are at risk of drought and flooding.

“This project shows people the reality of climate change using only moderate estimates – both the change of the average temperature where they live, and the impacts it will have on people’s lives all over the world – including here in Britain. Only by enabling people to understand what climate change means for them and for the world can we mobilise the action we need to avoid the worst effects of a changing climate.“


Notes for Journalists:

Follow this link to access Google Earth Antarctica

Follow this link to find out more about ‘Climate Change in Our World’ on Google Earth

Footage of Antarctic scenery and science in action (as seen on Climate Change in Our World) are available to download from ftp://ftp.nerc-bas.ac.uk/pub/photo/Google

British Antarctic Survey press office contact:

Linda Capper, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221448; mob 07714 233744; email: L.Capper@bas.ac.uk

Athena Dinar, Tel: ++44 (0)1223 221414; mob: 07740 822229; email: a.dinar@bas.ac.uk

Ice shelf – is the floating extension of the grounded ice sheet. It is composed of freshwater ice that originally fell as snow, either in situ or inland and brought to the ice shelf by glaciers. As they are already floating any disintegration (like Larsen B and Wilkins) will have no impact on sea level. Sea level will rise only if the ice held back by the ice shelf flows more quickly into the sea.

Since the 1950s, a total of 25 thousand km2 of ice shelf has been lost from around the Antarctic Peninsula. In volume this is the equivalent of the UK domestic water requirement for around 1000 years.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a world leader in research into global environmental issues. With an annual budget of around £45 million, five Antarctic Research Stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft BAS undertakes an interdisciplinary research programme and plays an active and influential role in Antarctic affairs. BAS has joint research projects with over 40 UK universities and has more than 120 national and international collaborations. It is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council.