The potential of Google’s Earth Engine

The Google Earth Engine was introduced in 2010 to allow users to monitor and measure changes in the environment at a global scale.  This engine performs two key functions: 1) it curates and manages historical and ongoing satellite data; and 2) it offers an easy-to-use analytical platform that allows researchers to process data into useful metrics of environmental characteristics and monitor change over time. The Google Earth Engine has the potential to greatly improve our exposure estimates for cohorts where residential history is important (for example, the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging). It should also help us derive retrospective data for other CANUE metrics. For example, given that we have high resolution surfaces of noise and air pollution, as well as maps of local climate zones, it may be possible to develop algorithms that process the 30 metre images into land use classifications. Informed by current land use data, this processing would create model variables going back as far as 1984. Other Google Earth Engine data of interest include nighttime light levels at 1 km resolution, which is another exposure metric for urban form that is potentially important to health. We will fully investigate these opportunities and, as progress is made, share methods and products on the portal.