The people, science and technology behind discovery

Subscribe to the Magazine

Get new articles sent directly to
your mailbox.

Join the network

Twitter Updates Group Forum

Earth Explorer is an online source of news, expertise and applied knowledge for resource explorers and earth scientists. Sponsored by Geosoft.

News & Views

News Archive

December 7, 2016

Geosoft introduces IP and resistivity inversion in VOXI Earth Modelling

Geosoft has added induced polarization and resistivity data inversion to its VOXI Earth Modelling 3D inversion software service. Geoscientists are now able to create detailed 3D models of conductivity and chargeability from IP and resistivity survey data with VOXI. The resulting models can assist in interpreting and targeting regions for mineral and environmental applications...

December 5, 2016

Mexico's Deepwater Round Exceeds Expectations

Some of the world's biggest oil companies showed up Dec. 5 and agreed to invest on the Mexican side of the Gulf of Mexico, proving that deepwater exploration still has a pulse despite challenging market conditions...

November 30, 2016

Magnetic inversion results for Ngamiland available for download

A regional-scale geophysical inversion of magnetic field data in the Ngamiland region of northwestern Botswana is now available for download from the Botswana Geoscience Portal, a partnership initiative of the Botswana Geoscience Institute, industry sponsors and Geosoft...

November 30, 2016

LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from their engineering test runs to full science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30...

November 9, 2016

International Volcano Scientists Unite

For the first time, the United States will host the international Volcano Observatory Best Practices workshop, previously held only in Italy. The workshop will take place this month in Vancouver, Washington. It is designed specifically for volcano observatories around the world and their staff to exchange ideas and best practices with each other...

October 4, 2016

USGS Assesses Mineral Potential for Sagebrush Habitats in Six Western States

USGS has completed a comprehensive assessment and inventory of potential mineral resources covering approximately 10 million acres of Federal and adjacent lands in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming...

October 3, 2016

Uganda Targets Up to U.S.$100 Million for Mineral Exploration

Uganda is well endowed with mineral resources and, like many naturally-gifted African countries, is becoming keen on ensuring that these resources play a transformative role in its long-term structural transformation dream - the Vision 2040...

September 9, 2016

Small-Scale Fishers Get A Big Boost With First-Of-Its Kind Impact Investment Fund

Conservation organization Rare announces the Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries at Our Ocean Conference. The Global Environment Facility, one of the largest funders of conservation worldwide, will be investing $6 million into the fund...

September 1, 2016

Scientists take to the skies to track West African pollution

Scientists operating research aircraft over West Africa have detected organic materials in the atmosphere over a number of urban areas, contributing to concerns of the rise in pollution across the region...

August 17, 2016

New IGS Xplore prospectivity maps for Botswana

International Geoscience Services have released a series of base metal prospectivity maps for the Ngamiland District of northwestern Botswana using free geodata available on the recently-launched Botswana Geoscience Portal, hosted by Geosoft. The maps identify favorable areas for copper, zinc and lead mineralization using geological, geochemical and geophysical datasets downloaded directly from the portal.

August 11, 2016

NexGen Makes New High Grade Discovery

NexGen Energy reported the discovery of a new high grade zone of mineralization 4.7 km northeast of the Arrow Deposit as part of an on-going summer drilling program on its 100% owned, Rook I property, Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan...

August 10, 2016

Rampion UXO Disposal to Take Place This Week

E.ON has confirmed that the two unexploded devices, detected along the Rampion offshore cable route will be safely disposed this week following the consultation with the Marine Management Organisation...

August 9, 2016

Diamonds In The Rough: E&Ps Find New Reserves In Mature Basins

The oil industry’s history demonstrates clearly that new plays and prospects have long been found in mature basins that were thought to be well on the way to being squeezed dry. Through the acquisition of new data, developing new concepts and coming up with fresh interpretations, long-producing basins around the world from the North Sea to Malaysia have continued to reveal new riches...

August 8, 2016

Northern Shield Identifies High Quality VTEM Targets at Séquoi

Northern Shield Resources announced the results of the interpretation and modelling of the VTEM survey from the Séquoi Property in the Labrador Trough of Quebec . Séquoi is owned 100% by Northern Shield and is being explored for Noril'sk style Ni-Cu-PGE massive sulphides. After geophysical modelling and interpretation of the VTEM data from Séquoi, six VTEM anomalies of significant interest have been identified...

August 3, 2016

Rio Tinto tailors big data drive to copper

Rio Tinto will put the weight of an exploration big data push and its newly-formed Growth and Innovation group behind its desire to identify a "tier 1" copper asset. Speaking at the annual Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Growth and Innovation group executive Stephen McIntosh said Australia was "overdue for a tier 1" mineral discovery of any type...

August 1, 2016

Tetra Tech Awarded $200 Million Navy CLEAN Contract

Tetra Tech announced that it has been awarded a $200 million, single-award contract by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic. Through the Comprehensive Long-term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contract, Tetra Tech will provide environmental engineering support services to installations within the NAVFAC Atlantic Area of Responsibility...

May 3, 2016

NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS), MODUM Partners announce "Young Scientist Summer School on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons"

This international project cooperates closely with CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons) Project for and sharing and knowledge transfer...

April 12, 2016

Monday mad rush for gold stocks

Renewed optimism about the outlook for gold saw investors pile back into gold stocks, pushing many stock to 52-week highs in heavy volumes...

April 11, 2016

Medgold Resources: Continues to Expand the Boticas Gold Project, Portugal; Proposes $200,000 Private Placement

Medgold Resources is pleased to announce new assay results from contiguous rock-chip sampling from the Limarinho South zone at its Boticas gold project in Portugal, which include a highlight of 6.0m @ 5.7 g/t Au...

April 8, 2016

De-carbonizing our energy sector

Nuclear energy currently provides around 11 percent of the world's electricity. China, the European Union, the United States, India, Russia, South Korea, and other nations’ have major existing fleets...

April 1, 2016

Follow-Up Drilling Results Indicate Wide Gold Zones at Hendricks Gold Discovery

Gascoyne Resources Limited announced that it has received the final assay results from the 10,000 metre aircore exploration drilling programme...

March 26, 2016

The Oil Market Is Finally Hitting Its Breaking Point

After a significant reduction in investments over the past two years, oil companies can no longer overcome the production declines from legacy wells...

March 15, 2016

N-Sea Expands into the French Offshore Wind Industry

Subsea IMR provider, N-Sea, has signed a letter of intent with CERES Recherches & Expertise Sous-Marine and TechSub Industrie Environement, to provide subsea survey, installation and remediation services to the French offshore wind industry...

March 9, 2016

PDAC 2016 Convention Exceeds 22,000 Attendees

Optimism and opportunity abounded at the PDAC 2016 Convention of The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in spite of recent industry challenges...

March 3, 2016

6 Alpha Launches EOD Contracting Division

6 Alpha Associates, a specialist risk consultancy practice, with expertise in the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance, has launched a dedicated explosive ordnance disposal division...

Globe Viewers: The New, Digital Frontier

Leonard Chan

Geology of Australia in Dapple.

The earth is a big place.

But within the confines of your desktop, and with the aid of free exploration software, you can now visit Kathmandu, Kinshasa, and Kansas without the need for lengthy security checks, plane cabin fever, or painful vaccinations.

The world of globe viewers

Globe viewers, downloadable virtual globe applications, are becoming a very important tool for visualizing the world’s spatial data. Google Earth, NASA’s World Wind, and newer ones like Geosoft’s Dapple are all available as free internet downloads. Google Earth requires you to purchase a license if you intend to use it for professional work. Although superficially similar, these globe viewers operate under different philosophies and have divergent target audiences. The way each application fits into the workflow of a geoscientist is vastly different as well.

The most horizontal application of the three, Google Earth targets a broad audience. Straight out of the box, Google Earth comes with a great deal of functionality that will appeal to a wide range of users, with virtual sight-seeing and route planning being two of the most common usages. Its interface is streamlined for ease and efficiency, which is unsurprising given its namesake.

The Eiffel Tower in Google Earth.

SRTM + LandSat 7: Mt. St. Helens, Washington in NASA World Wind.

Google Earth uses KML (Keyhole Markup Language) which is based on the XML standard. To view your data in the Google Earth environment, you need to create KML files with the Google Earth user interface or you can use an XML editor to enter ’raw’ KML. While many users are investing in converting their data to KML, as a developing language KML is known to have some limitations. It does not scale very well for big earth datasets, nor does it perform well for image data. This restricts its value, particularly for geoscientific applications.

World Wind is an open-source browser from NASA. Immediately after download, World Wind provides access to the 4.6 terabytes of high resolution DDS and JPEG satellite images available from NASA servers, and unlike Google Earth, there is flexibility in the image sets you can display. Users can choose from several layers including Landsat 7, USGS, and SRTM imagery, as well as animated data layers that include real-time weather.

Supported by a robust open-source community, World Wind has benefited from its plug-in architecture, with community-made add-ons such as additional planets (fictional or otherwise). An additional benefit to the open-source nature of World Wind is that, unlike Google Earth, corporate use of the software comes entirely free of charge.

There are, however, some limitations that World Wind shares with Google Earth. An important one is its limited support of Web Map Services (WMS). WMS is an internationally standardized method for producing maps of spatially referenced data from remote geographic information. There are hundreds of WMS server sites with thousands of layers that provide useful images of geospatial data. These servers are generally made available from government surveys, commercial providers, or enthusiastic end-users. Though both World Wind and Google Earth are able to connect to WMS servers, neither provides an intuitive or efficient interface with WMS.

World Wind’s interface is also nowhere near as user-friendly as that of Google Earth’s and requires users to tinker quite a bit in order to understand its oft-times esoteric features. It is this complexity that simultaneously makes World Wind less accessible to a larger audience but more useful to specific disciplines.

The next generation

More recently, Dapple appeared on the landscape as a new alternative for professional geoscientists. An offspring of World Wind, Dapple is an open source initiative sponsored by Geosoft specifically for the geoscience community. Like World Wind, Dapple is available to professional and corporate users free of charge. It employs a Google-type interface that provides the advantage of usability to its target user base while delivering more advanced features for exploring large, earth data. Most important, it was designed to provide geoscientists with a better way to work with the thousands of WMS data providers on the internet today, on a globe viewer.

The major difference between these globe viewers is the way in which they handle and present data. Google Earth is streamlined for one data layer, so while that one layer is visually spectacular, it is still only one layer. Using KML, it is possible to add additional layers, but image performance is generally poor and unresponsive. Although Google Earth can afford you a luxurious view of the car in your driveway, what geoscientists really want to see is the geology beneath the car, along with electromagnetic, remote sensing, and other earth data.

While World Wind can access a wider range of data and can handle multiple layers, its capabilities for viewing WMS sites are quite limited. WMS layers lack floor style browsing, layer ordering, and transparency control. Dapple was developed to deliver superior WMS capabilities, recognizing that much of the world’s public sources of geoscientific data reside on WMS servers. As one user, Brian Timoney wrote online, Dapple is a “nice spinning globe alternative that can be a user-friendly showcase of the utility of WMS.” According to Timoney, an advantage of working with Dapple is that it “handles WMS layers in a superior manner when compared to World Wind – both in terms of tiling/streaming as well as easy navigation/controlling transparency.”

Ian MacLeod, Chief Technology Officer at Geosoft, a geoscientist and one of the architects behind Dapple explains, “Dapple is different than Google and NASA because of its unique applicability to earth data and earth scientists. The geoscience community is very used to dealing with spatial data. Geoscientists work with spatial data on a daily basis. They’re used to GIS systems like ArcGIS or MapInfo and geoscientific software like Oasis montaj™. We are very much an image-based, spatial data industry.”

According to MacLeod, how the geoscientist wants to see and work with spatial data is also different than the mainstream. “Geososcientists need to be able to see a lot of different data from different sources within the same environment. They need to be able to see data that they retrieve from the internet and from their own servers. They want control over the order of the data layers as well as transparency, which is a critical function. Once they have done all that, they want to be able to put it all on a map.”

A globe viewer for geoscientists

Understanding the geoscientist workflow was why Geosoft took on the challenge of developing Dapple™. The focus from the start was making this powerful technology valuable in the context of earth data exploration. Technically, a lot of what the geoscience community needs is possible within both the Google Earth and World Wind environments, but it’s not intuitive and simple, often requiring tricky manoeuvring within the user interface. Dapple was designed to give geoscientists access to the features and data they need with one or two mouse clicks.

Making a globe viewer, like Dapple, valuable within a geoscience organization or exploration company meant tackling another challenge – the ability to search data available on private servers as well as public ones. Dapple’s support of Geosoft’s server technology, DAP, has delivered a whole new value to Geosoft’s enterprise customers, enabling them to search, find, and see data from their own massive data resources, as well as public sources in one viewing environment.

Geosoft’s DAP sever technology is also uniquely optimized for earth science, a discipline where one must wade through large swaths of data to pinpoint the relevant information useful to a specific project. One of the key concepts of DAP is the ability to store datasets in their native formats. Using WMS, this data can be easily accessed through Dapple, a visualization tool for the geoscience masses. This solves one of the biggest frustrations that geoscientists had with Google Earth and World Wind: the difficulty involved in seeing their own data.

Geosoft is continuing to integrate Dapple further into its earth data mapping applications to close the loop, and provide a whole data experience – from finding and viewing earth data, to working with and producing data outcomes, like maps, interpretations, and presentations and storing them on their own servers. Given the complexity of the geoscientist’s workflow, and the depth of knowledge they need to extract from their data, there is a lot of room for improvement – making the data experience simpler and more natural, so that outcomes and decisions are easier to arrive at.

Asked to summarize the globe viewer market, MacLeod concludes, “All these globe viewers have made an incredible contribution to opening up access and interest in spatial data. Google Earth is valuable. World Wind is valuable. They’ve led the way in proving out the power of viewing the world’s data on a globe.”

“The next generation of viewers, like Dapple” says MacLeod, “begins to harness this power in a way that’s useful to a community, in this case the geoscience community. Geoscientists needed more than what the other viewers offered, and that’s why we developed Dapple. It’s a viewer for us.”