Google Maps is getting a few new features to help people better understand our burning planet. The first is a new “fire” layer in the main map view, which will let you view the exact boundaries of a wildfire just as easily as you can look up the current traffic patterns. Google has done fire information before as part of the “crisis response” website, but with climate change making “Fire Season” a yearly occurrence in dry areas like Australia and the Western US, wildfires will now be a top-level Maps feature.
Google says the new fire level will bring “all of Google’s wildfire information together” in an easy interface. In the US, it will also pull in data from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), and the company says it wants to expand fire detail with other government agencies, starting with Australia in “the coming months.” Wildfire boundaries should be updated on an hourly basis, and Google says you’ll be able to tap on a fire to see information from local governments, like “emergency websites, phone numbers for help and information, and evacuation details. When available, you can also see important details about the fire, such as its containment, how many acres have burned, and when all this information was last reported.”
The fire layout is rolling out to Android this week, with iOS and desktop coming in October.
Google also announced it’s going to expand the Tree Canopy tool it launched in 2020. This Google Maps tool combines Google’s plethora of aerial imagery with computer vision AI to generate a map that shows tree cover in cities. Today’s announced expansion will increase the Tree Canopy imagery from 15 cities to 100 cities worldwide.
Google wants city planners to use the Tree Canopy tool to combat the phenomena of urban heat islands, where miles of asphalt and a dearth of shade from trees can cause cities to be significantly hotter than the surrounding areas. Google says heat islands “disproportionately impact lower-income communities and contribute to a number of public health concerns — from poor air quality to dehydration. With Tree Canopy data, local governments have free access to insights about where to plant trees to increase shade, reduce heat and mitigate these adverse effects.”
Google started the Tree Canopy tool in Los Angeles, and the company says the data “has become a critical piece of the city’s long-term goal to increase tree shade by at least 50% by 2028.” The tool is also being used by officials in Louisville, Austin, Chicago, and Miami.
Listing image by Google