Widgets for Earth Science

Widgets are small applications popping up on screens for streaming music, displaying the latest weather radar, alerting us to incoming email or recent earthquakes. A number of widgets are available for earth scientists.

What Are Widgets?

Widgets are small xml and javascript applications that reside on your Window’s desktop or as a feature of Mac OSX Dashboard. Widgets became popular as a Apple-only application created by Konfabulator. Yahoo purchased Konfabulator and markets the “Yahoo Widget Engine” that distributes cross-platform widgets. Apple provides links to a number of “Dashboard Widgets” at its web site.

Dashboard widgets displayed on a MacBook

Widgets are relatively easy to create and a variety are available as free downloads. Widgets are available for system utilities, news feeds, multimedia, communication, and education. For earth scientists, widgets can access resources like USGS streamflow data, doppler radar at a variety of spatial scales, NOAA hurricane loops, and NASA visualizations.

A Sample of Earth Science Widgets

EarthquakesDescription from site: “The Earthquakes Widget shows a world map with the latest earthquake information from USGS. Earthquakes are shown as circles, with a larger circle indicating a larger earthquake. Quakes within the last day are shown in yellow, those within the last week are shown in green. Right-click (or Ctrl-click on OS X) allows you to zoom in or out and open the USGS earthquake information page for any earthquake. Earthquake information is automatically refreshed about every three hours.”


River Levels Widget

Provides an easy way to monitor the amount of water flowing in your favorite streams and rivers right from your Dashboard. Once any United States Geological Survey (USGS) stream-gauge station is selected, it is automatically refreshed to always provide you with the latest graph of the water-level.


MacPips WorldTime Widget

Description from site: “Fully interactive WorldTime widget, showing the day and night areas of the Earth in all the world’s time zones.”


NOAA Hurricane 2006

Description from site: “Downloads both static and loop images from the National Hurricane Center. This Widget will also find and display the graphics for any currently active tropical storm.”


NASA Solar Viewer

Description from the site: “NASA’s Solar Viewer allows you to see today’s images of the Sun on your desktop. These near realtime images come from NASA/ESA’s SOHO
mission, NASA TRACE mission, and the Big Bear Observatory.


SATellite Images

Description from the site: “Allows the user to view many different satellite maps of USA, sea surface temperatures, earthquakes, oceans, and a variety of world locations.”


Widget Sites

Apple Dashboard Widgets: http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/information/.

Yahoo Widget Engine: http://widgets.yahoo.com/

Published in: on August 31, 2006 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Focus on the Internet: The Long Term Ecological Research Program.

The use of the Internet by the Long Term Ecological Research Program was highlighted in Chapter 1 pages 19 – 25 of Earth Online 1e. LTER’s goals are:

  • Understanding: To understand a diverse array of ecosystems at multiple spatial and temporal scales.
  • Synthesis: To create general knowledge through long-term, interdisciplinary research, synthesis of information, and development of theory.
  • Information: To inform the LTER and broader scientific community by creating well designed and well documented databases.
  • Legacies: To create a legacy of well-designed and documented long-term observations, experiments, and archives of samples and specimens for future generations.
  • Education: To promote training, teaching, and learning about long-term ecological research and the Earth’s ecosystems, and to educate a new generation of scientists.
  • Outreach: To reach out to the broader scientific community, natural resource managers, policymakers, and the general public by providing decision support, information, recommendations and the knowledge and capability to address complex environmental challenges. (Source: LTER Network http://www.lternet.edu/research/goals.html

The LTER continues to do an excellent job of disseminating information and facilitating research and education via the Internet. The Long Term Ecological Research Network web site is:


[Top photo: Niwot Ridge Colorado LTER Site. Courtesy Michael Ritter]
[Bottom photo: Cedar Creek Minnesota LTER Site. Courtesy NSF – Source]

Published in: on August 29, 2006 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Earth Online

Earth online originally published by Wadsworth Publishing was one of the first textbooks to explore the use of the Internet for Earth Science education and research. It is presently out of print but chapters may be downloaded for free from the Earth Online web site. This blog is intended to build on its foundation, update its content, and provide further examples of how the Internet is used by geoscientists.

Published in: on August 29, 2006 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment