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An interactive map of the Australian environment

A map of Australia shaded in bright reds through the center, with paler yellows and whites on the coastline.

Exposed soil on the Australian continent in 2016, as shown by Australia’s Environment Observer.

The Australian environment has been central to life here for millennia, and understanding the changes going on around us remains central to our food, tourism and health. New satellite data sources now let us see the things going on in our environment in incredible detail.

Environmental activities such as water runoff, bushfire intensity and vegetation cover are all monitored with various kinds of satellites, but until now that data has not been easily accessible by members of the public. That has changed with the launch of Australia’s Environment Explorer, an interactive online map of Australia now updated with the latest 2016 data. The site is powered by data services delivered by NCI, allowing vast corpuses of data to be available for researchers and the public.

The website lets you overlay a map of Australia with a wide range of data, and shows you how it has changed since the year 2000. It covers six different categories of environmental variables, and lets you view it all by state, local government area or even by named location. For example, you can see how the drought affected Lake Eyre between 2001 and 2010, or how strong the Tasmanian bushfires of January 2016 really were.

Land managers, councils and government departments are already making great use of the website and the underlying data, but the aim is also for everyday people to be able to get in and learn about their environment.

Produced by land and water scientists from The Australian National University, the data is stored and processed here at NCI, along with tens of petabytes of the nation’s key environmental data sourced from our national science agencies and from overseas (http://datacatalogue.nci.org.au/). NCI provides the foundations for a seamless data visualisation experience, letting you play with the maps how you like. Behind the scenes there are thousands of datasets, lines of code and hard drives that we have put together to make uses like this possible.

The systems that we build for managing and making data available are designed to let you get to the data as easily as possible, without having to worry about any other details. This speeds up the scientific research process and means that you always know where the data is kept, how to get back to it and who it came from.

We would love for you to play around with Australia’s Environment Explorer, and if you are interested, dig deeper into the original datasets. This is the easiest way of exploring the wealth of satellite and environmental data stored at NCI, but there is much more to discover.

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